‘Mean Girls’ musical makes long-awaited arrival in San Diego this week

English Bernhardt as Cady Heron, right, meets the mean girls in the national touring production of the musical "Mean Girls."
(Courtesy of Jenny Anderson)

The film-based musical was directed and choreographed by the Tony-wining former San Diegan Casey Nicholaw


Mean girls don’t turn nice. They just turn musical.

It worked for Tina Fey nearly 20 years ago when she wrote the screenplay for the teen comedy “Mean Girls” based on Rosalind Wiseman’s how-to for parents “Queen Bees and Wannabes.” And it worked again when Fey wrote the book for the “Mean Girls” stage musical. Jeff Richmond (composer of the music for Fey’s “30 Rock” TV series) and Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”) provided music and lyrics respectively for the show, which opened on Broadway in 2018.

A national tour that began a year later finally arrives in San Diego — following a long pandemic delay — on Tuesday with performances at the San Diego Civic Theatre through March 5.

The creative team for the "Mean Girls" musical.
The creative team for the “Mean Girls” musical: Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw, left, bookwriter Tina Fey, composer Jeff Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin.
(Courtesy of Jenny Anderson)

The touring production is directed by Casey Nicholaw, a former San Diegan (he attended Clairemont High School) whose Broadway credits include his Tony-winning direction of “The Book of Mormon,” as well as work “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Aladdin” and the musical adaptation of “Some Like It Hot.” Nicholaw is also the “Mean Girls” musical’s choreographer.

“People like the show because it has the spirit of the movie,” said Nicholaw, “but we made it theatrical. They also get to hear some of their favorite characters sing.”

Those characters familiar to fans of the film include the bullied high school student Cady Heron, her BFFs Janis and Damian, and the trio of “Plastics” led by the vengeful Regina George, also known as the “Queen Bee.”

In the movie, Cady was played by then-18-year-old Lindsay Lohan, and the cast included several other young actors who would go on to make names for themselves: Amanda Seyfried (“The Dropout,” “Mank”), Lacey Chabert (choose your Hallmark movie), Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook,” “Doctor Strange”) and Lizzy Caplan (“Masters of Sex”). Fey also appeared as a school math teacher, and her frequent co-star and friend Amy Poehler played Regina’s mother, June George.

The musical “Mean Girls” features English Bernhardt as Cady with Nadina Hassan as Regina.

Nicholaw had no doubt the movie would translate well to the musical stage.

“It has Tina Fey as a book writer, that tells you something,” he said. “I knew that with her writing it, it would be fast-paced and have lots of laughs in it.”

He enjoyed choreographing the show at its conception, in spite of the fact that it was a departure from productions for which he’d created dance before.

“It’s not necessarily the style that I live in,” Nicholaw said. “I was able to do it and have a good time doing it. I kept it really percussive. It goes with my tap background.”

Tap choreography was a staple of Nicholaw’s work on past productions of “Spamalot” and “Something’s Rotten!”

For Nicholaw, the appeal of both “Mean Girls” the film and this musical iteration is its relatability.

“Everyone had to go to high school,” he said. “Everyone got picked on in one way or another, whether by someone else or you’re picking on yourself. To be able to show that with humor and recognize the humanity in the humor is universal.”

‘Mean Girls’

When: Opens Tuesday and runs through March 5. Showtimes, 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday; 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. March 3; 2 and 8 p.m. March 4; 1 and 6:30 p. m. March 5

Where: San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., San Diego

Tickets: $39-$114


Coddon is a freelance writer.