See a Fetch Show at Kennedy Center | Arts & Entertainment

The musical “Mean Girls” returns to DC

Ever since “Mean Girls” arrived on movie screens in the summer of 2004, fans of the cult movie have quoted lines and clamored for more story from its writer, comedian Tina Fey. They finally got their wish when Fey decided to turn the film into a musical, and it instantly had Broadway audiences shouting “Fetch!”

Premiering at the National Theater in Washington, DC during the fall of 2017, the musical, directed by Tony winner Casey Nicholaw, with a book by Fey, original music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin, became an instant success. The show opened on Broadway the next year and was one of the biggest hits during its run—cut short only by the pandemic.

Now, “Mean Girls” is returning to the city where it started, with the show’s tour playing the Kennedy Center April 5-24.

The story will be familiar to fans of the movie, though it’s set in more present-day, yet still includes the same razor-sharp wit and remarkable insights from the movie.

Much like the movie’s plot, after years of living with her zoologist parents in Africa, Cady Heron moves to Illinois and must find where she fits in the social hierarchy. She quickly attracts the attention of The Plastics, a trio of popular frenemies led by the vicious and calculating Regina George. When Cady currencies a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns that you can’t cross a Queen Bee without getting stung.

The tour stars Danielle Wade as Cady Heron, Nadina Hassan as Regina George, Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen Wieners, Jonalyn Saxer as Karen Smith, Mary Kate Morrissey as Janis Sarkisian, Eric Huffman as Damian Hubbard, and Adante Carter as Aaron Samuels.

The character of the dim-witted Karen (played by Amanda Seyfried in the movie) is a fan-favorite, and Saxer is thrilled to be playing the role on this tour. “I adored the music and quoted it constantly, and when I first saw the announcement that they were adapting the movie into a musical, I just knew I had to be part of it,” she said. “I love getting to step into Karen’s brain every night. I think every character in the show is so beautifully written by Tina Fey, so as an, it takes little work to make actor people laugh.”

And since Karen gets a lot of the laughs in the show, Saxer is constantly listening to the audience’s reaction each night, and feels as if she’s totally connected to the live crowd.

The actress has actually been a part of “Mean Girls” for five years, auditioning for the project while it was still in its workshop phase and cast in the show for the DC and original Broadway production as an ensemble member and understudy of Karen.

“I left the original production to come play Karen on tour in 2019,” Saxer said. “Our creative team has always encouraged us to make the role our own and not try to do impersonations or imitations, so having been working with Kate Rockwell (Broadway’s original Karen) for so long, they were very encouraging of me of finding my own version of Karen and not copy Amanda or Kate’s version. I’m bringing my own truth to the character.”

During the original DC run, Saxer had a strong feeling that “Mean Girls” would become a hit, and credits the entire team for ensuring it wasn’t just an enjoyable show, but a great one that would have legs on Broadway and beyond.

Raised by a musical theater family—her parents met doing a community production of “The Music Man,”—it was no surprise when Saxer decided to pursue theater professionally. She made it to Broadway in the show, “Bullets Over Broadway,” and people quickly took notice of the talented performer.

“It was all of my dreams come true,” she said. “My little theater nerd was thrust, and these people I had looked up to for so long were suddenly my colleagues. It was literally everything I dreamed of and more.”

Saxer enjoys being on tour with the show, checking out different places around the United States and seeing new theaters and crowds each week.

“The storyline we are telling—going to a new place and wanting to fit in, and being influenced by the people around you, happens not only to teenagers but to adults going to new jobs, and these are things we are constantly encountering in our lives,” she said. “It’s been really special to take this show from the development stage to Broadway and now on tour. People are going to have a good time for sure.”


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