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Triangle Downtowner

Mean Girls is so Fetch!

Feb 13, 2020 12:36PM ● By Lamarr Fowlkes

Pictured (L-R): Danielle Wade as Cady Heron, Megan Masako Haley as Gretchen Wieners, Mariah Rose Faith as Regina George, and Olivia Renteria as Karen Smith (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

Since its debut in 2004, Mean Girls has achieved cult classic status and ingratiated itself in American pop culture with a lexicon of memorable quotes (“She doesn’t even go here!”) and meta-rules for everyday life (We still only wear pink on Wednesdays). The film, written by Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey, remained so beloved that it has received the musical treatment in 2017. Now running onstage at the Durham Performing Arts Center, the story remains unchanged: Exchange student Cady Heron (Danielle Wade) leaves her home school life in and moves with her family to the suburbs of Chicago. Entering high school in a world full of cliques, Cady is befriended by outcasts Damian (Eric Huffman) and Janis (English Bernhardt) on opening night performance) and set on a mission to disrupt the school’s social hierarchy by destroying the three most popular girls, “The Plastics”, from within. Cady finds herself drawn into their perfect, pink world becoming the very thing she was set against. Along the while, she learns that the politics of popularity, and the people behind it all, are more surprising than she bargained for.

The cast is superb here, enhancing the roles with their own personal flairs. Wade’s Cady is the heroine you both root and cry for, her deceptively powerful voice coupled with awkward adorableness. Huffman’s “too gay to function” Damian has some of the film’s most memorable lines and he embodies the role with as much panache as his predecessor. Bernhardt’s portrayal of Janis is more grunge than the film, but this complements whether she’s in sync with Damian or deriding the absurdity around her. No stories of good is complete without good villains and The Plastics are played to perfection here, the trio of airhead Karen Smith (portrayed on opening night by understudy Olivia Renteria), sycophantic Gretchen (Megan Masako Haley), and Queen Bee Regina George (Mariah Rose Faith). Haley adds more sympathy to her character with the pleading number, “What’s Wrong With Me?”, while Renteria the perfect mix of bubbly and ditzy in her role. As befitting the Queen Bee herself, Faith puts the “B” in Bee with her scorching number “World Burn.” Amidst all the high school drama, hilarious performances from Gaelen Gilliand as teacher Ms. Norbury and Lawrence E. Street as principal Mr. Duvall as well as a killer pink-infused wardrobe, truly brings the Mean Girls experience to life. True to modern day, there’s an influx of social media insertions, which was brilliantly showcased on the high-tech set comprised of constant shifting video screens. Various backdrops capture several settings and images of the character’s lives. One of note being the blown-up pages of the “Burn Book,” a book The Plastics use to write down scathing commentary of their classmates.

As true to the source material as any other adaptation, any Mean Girls fan will leave feeling justice was served. Those new to the phenomenon will be as equally entertained as they watch the production unfold. The best entry of the DPAC season so far, the show has a magical combination of relatable figures, recognizable flaws, reasonable situations, and the reasons behind those decisions. Mean Girls is running on stage through Sunday, February 16th at the Durham Peforming Arts Center. Tickets can be purchased at the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Ticket Center at DPACDPACnc.com and Ticketmaster.com

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