Jeff Richmond and Nell Benjamin give melody to “Mean Girls”
If faced with reducing the Original Broadway Cast recording of “Mean Girls” (the Tina Fey blockbuster adapted for the stage) to one word, anyone would be incredibly amiss to pass up the opportunity to call it “fetch.”
The Atlantic Albums record, which is set to release its physical copy on June 15, recently became available electronically. The soundtrack to the Tony-nominated 2018 musical was highly anticipated in the Broadway community, and certainly doesn’t disappoint.
The first track on the album, “A Cautionary Tale,” thrusts the listener immediately into the world of Northshore High School in suburban Illinois, dominated by social cliques. The track introduces the listener to the beloved duo of endearing outcasts, Janice and Damien, as the narrators of the story. The introduction takes the place of a quintessential Broadway overture, one in which rock‘n’roll meets modern musical theatre pop vibes. Set in the world of hormones and high school, it works.
Janice, played by a perfectly cynical Barrett Wilbert Weed, is a vocal highlight. Her raspy and full sound dominates the soundtrack –– in the best way. Her role as narrator in addition to first friend to Cady Heron is a strong choice. Her other moments in the soundtrack truly stand out –– including “Apex Predator,” the fun and free “Revenge Party” and of course the feminist anthem of the musical, “I’d Rather Be Me.”
The soundtrack marries dynamic and exciting with comedic and real –– the belty, mezzo moments we get from Wilbert Weed are complimented nicely by well mixed harmonies from the sweet Erika Henningsen, who plays a glacé Cady Heron. Her voice fits Heron’s personality perfectly –– a sweet, charming and fresh sound, bringing the perfect amount of naivete to the “new girl” stock character she portrays.
Henningson, a graduate of the University herself, also has some standout vocal moments –– including “It Roars” and “More is Always Better,” both of which showcase her phenomenal control and range.
Tony nominated Taylor Louderman does not disappoint vocally as Regina George. Her voice is clear and sparkly as ice, encapsulating the likeable yet elitist queen bee perfectly. Louderman’s risque meets commandeering queen bee solo moments, including–– “Meet the Plastics,” “Someone Gets Hurt” and the impeccable “World Burn” –– fit her like a glove. Her vocal range is astonishing and the most compelling on the album, just as Regina George’s voice should be.
The true gems here, though, are the trifecta of creative brains behind the belty broadway soundtrack that will be stuck in our heads and our hearts for years to come. Nell Benjamin, Tony nominated lyricist collaborated with Tina Fey and her husband, composer Jeffrey Richmond, to put together the 21 tracks that tell the story of Cady Heron. On initial listen, I was quick to deem the lyrics as rather simple and predictable, but after a few more listens this can be a testament to the music’s dedication to the hilarious, realistic and endearing script Fey wrote for the 2004 movie.
It is also worth it to note that the soundtrack is not necessarily meant to stand alone. Though it is wonderful as 21 songs, it becomes all the more likeable after having the opportunity to see the show in all its glory. Costumes, acting, choreography and the design compliments the music and allows it to soar –– giving justification to the simplicity of the lyrics. With all the moving parts, they work really wonderfully, the brassy, big, extroverted orchestrations glorious.
The soundtrack also does a really nice job of moving plot development along without lagging on any one moment. The plot covers a lot of ground –– nearly an entire school year, and the music is used effectively to help pass time in an entertaining way.
The soundtrack also does a really nice job of updating the 2004 movie script –– adding a fresh “woke” aspect. This “Mean Girls” world coming to life 14 years after the original was no small obstacle for the book writer, lyricist or composer. Karen Smith, Regina’s so-dumb-it’s-sweet sidekick is a revenge porn victim, which is revealed in the number “Stop” –– an intriguing lesson on the dangers of social media.
“Stop because I’m actually a human being and not a prop,” she sings after telling the story of nude pictures gone viral. The ensemble chimes in to remind the listener to think before posting.
All in all, this Mean Girls Original Cast Recording is “… like really pretty.” It is new and refreshing, but still sticks to the lines and spirit of the movie we all love. It is safe to say that you should definitely get on Spotify and listen to the “Mean Girls” soundtrack … it’s like, just the rules of feminism.