“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.
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.
“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.
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.
Here’s a look at the cast: