“Mean Girls” is morphing into a musical.

Tina Fey’s hit 2004 comedy about the tribal divisions of high school society will debut on Broadway this April. For now, the musical is warming up in Washington at the National Theatre. The cast and crew are getting a sense of how theatergoers might react and what might need to be fixed in the show.

Fey is attempting a feat that turns out to be a lot harder than it may sound: taking a movie people love and transforming it into a musical people will pay big money to see. Her husband, Jeff Richmond, composed the music, and Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde: The Musical”) wrote the lyrics.

The “Mean Girls” creative team, clockwise from top left: director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, lyricist Nell Benjamin, composer Jeff Richmond and writer Tina Fey. (Michael Rubenstein for The Washington Post)
The “Mean Girls” creative team, clockwise from top left: director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw, lyricist Nell Benjamin, composer Jeff Richmond and writer Tina Fey. (Michael Rubenstein for The Washington Post)

There’s no telling whether the fans who made “Mean Girls” an international sensation more than a decade ago will post positive comments online about this venture — or consign it to the fraying pages of their old high school Burn Books.

Fey has already proved her worth on the silver screen. She achieved fame on “Saturday Night Live,” went on to fill her shelves with Emmys for NBC’s “30 Rock” and created, with Robert Carlock, the endearing Netflix sitcom gem "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”

But as past celebrity musical-writers have learned, it’s not always easy to cash in at the Broadway box office. Regardless, Fey remains confident — and flexible.

“At 47, I feel like I know what I know, I know what I don’t know, and the one thing I know that the four of us have that’s very strong, is work ethic,” Fey says of the creative team. “And willingness to learn, and absence of rigidity. And all we can do is just keep working and checking and being vigilant and feel like we’re doing the best version we can. And the other stuff beyond that is kind of out of your control.”

It’s been more than a decade since “Mean Girls” came out.

Over the years, Fey and Richmond heard about unauthorized stage adaptations of the film at colleges.

“I never saw any of them, but I remember thinking like, ‘Hey man, you don’t have permission to do that!’” Fey says.

With two girls of their own, they began to see the commercial potential for “Mean Girls” on Broadway.

Left: Tina Fey and her husband, Jeff Richmond, in rehearsal. Right: Barrett Wilbert Weed, pictured left with Tina Fey, will star as “misfit” Janis Sarkisian. (Joan Marcus)
Left: Tina Fey and her husband, Jeff Richmond, in rehearsal. Right: Barrett Wilbert Weed, pictured left with Tina Fey, will star as “misfit” Janis Sarkisian. (Joan Marcus)

“It had solid characters and situations and timely issues,” Richmond says. “We have girls now, and I see where this kind of property would mean more than it did 10 years ago. At least in our world.”

Still, when their 12-year-old watched it for the first time recently, Fey was nervous.

“I don’t want to show it to you early, not because it’s inappropriate,” she remembers telling her. “I just don’t want you to see it and not think it’s funny!”

Fey enlisted “SNL” alum Colin Quinn to produce. “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels, Fey’s mentor and former boss, also signed on.

“Tina has as good and as tough an eye as anyone,” Michaels says. “I’ll go with her anywhere. There is no one I have a higher regard for. Just on a level of intelligence, and heart.”

The movie’s backstabbing stars included Lindsay Lohan as new girl Cady Heron, Rachel McAdams as vengeful Regina George — queen bee of the clique known as the Plastics — and Amanda Seyfried as the ultra-dim Plastic Karen Smith.

The stage version, with a pop score and an updating to the Snapchat world of 2017, remains faithful to the movie plot, but it features a different cast.


Ashley Park, left, Taylor Louderman and Kate Rockwell in a recent “Mean Girls” rehearsal in New York. (Joan Marcus)
Ashley Park, left, Taylor Louderman and Kate Rockwell in a recent “Mean Girls” rehearsal in New York. (Joan Marcus)

Here’s a look at the cast:

  • Erika Henningsen plays Cady Heron, whose do-good parents home-schooled her as they worked in Africa. Two years ago, at 23, Henningsen became Broadway’s youngest Fantine in “Les Misérables.”
  • Barrett Wilbert Weedis goth girl Janis Sarkisian, who loathes the Plastics and uses Cady as a spy to sabotage the fashionista clique. Weed was Veronica in the original Los Angeles “Heathers: The Musical” — and she won a Helen Hayes Award as Sally Bowles in Signature’s 2015 “Cabaret."
  • Ashley Parktakes on the role of Gretchen Weiners, who tries to make “fetch” this year’s “cool.” She has been in “Mamma Mia!” and played Tuptim in Lincoln Center’s “The King and I.”
  • Kate Rockwell transforms into Karen, the the Plastic so vapid that she asks Cady, “If you’re from Africa, why are you white?” Rockwell’s Broadway credits include “Rock of Ages” and “Legally Blonde.” Last year, she was Carrie Pipperidge in Arena Stage’s “Carousel."
  • Taylor Loudermanis the ultra-manipulative Regina. Louderman played Wendy in the recent NBC “Peter Pan Live!” and Lauren in “Kinky Boots” on Broadway.

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