Mean Girls, the hilarious smash hit musical returns to Toronto this summer! And what timing! It’s also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the original movie that was ACTUALLY filmed in our city!

The Musical comes from an award-winning creative team, including book writer Tina Fey (30 Rock), composer Jeff Richmond (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt), lyricist Nell Benjamin (Legally Blonde), director Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), and producer/proud Torontonian Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live).

What’s the storyline? In a nutshell, Cady Heron may have grown up on an African savanna, but nothing prepared her for the vicious ways of her strange new home: suburban Illinois. Soon, this naïve teen newbie falls prey to a trio of lionized frenemies led by the charming but ruthless Regina George. But when Cady devises a plan to end Regina’s reign, she learns the hard way that you can’t cross a Queen Bee without getting stung.

We had a the opportunity to chat with cast members Mary Rose Brendan (Karen Smith) and Kirsten Amanda Smith (Gretchen Wieners)of the musical!

Mean Girls Musical - Mirvish - Toronto

Maryrose Brendel (Karen Smith) and the Tour Company of Mean Girls. Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson, 2023.

The Mean Girls storyline is relatable for many but in the musical version, the songs bring a whole different dimension and depth. What is that like for you as a performer?

Mary Rose: Stepping into this role allowed me to combine my nostalgic love for the 2004 film and my passion for musical theatre. My favorite part of this has been shaping my version of Karen. I take inspiration from both Amanda Seyfried and the original Broadway cast, Kate Rockwell. Both nail the subtle humor and keep her head in the clouds, but also grounded in humanity. Karen’s songs in the musical delve into her more feminist side, encoded cleverly through humor. I love that I get to portray this side of her- particularly her confidence and love of girlhood.

Kristen Amanda: The dimension and depth that come from the music in this show is so important to my storytelling as a performer. For example, Gretchen’s song “What’s Wrong with Me”, really paints the picture of what is going on in her mind to the audience, more than we got to see in the original movie. The allows me as an actor, to explore the inner turmoil that she goes through on a deeper level.

The musical is able to expand some of the storylines of the characters we are familiar with, including both character’s and their personal life, what can you tell us?

Mary Rose: In the musical I feel like we get to see more of Karen’s friendship dynamic with Cady. More so than the movie, we see her really prioritize the female friendships in her life.

Kristen Amanda: In “What’s Wrong with Me”, Gretchen says “Mama called me beautiful, don’t believe her anymore.” I think this is as deep as we get into Gretchen’s personal life. She is insecure despite what those who truly love and care about her say. I think that is something we can all relate to at times.

Social media is brought in to make the story even more relatable for today’s audience, since the original film was released in 2004 (OMG 20 years ago?!). Does that make you wonder what teenage life was like back then and how does that change impact you as a young performer?

Mary Rose: I was in the 8th grade when I first got an iPhone which then unlocked the world of Instagram, Snapchat etc. I am thankful every day that I had 14 years before that of a “social media-free” childhood. Social media, as we see in the show, can be a dangerous entity especially for young high schoolers.

Kristen Amanda: I imagine that teenage life in 2004 has more similarities to teenage life now than we may realize. I think teenagers and young adults then and now have found themselves wondering why they don’t fit in, have felt out of place, or often compared themselves to those around them. Social media definitely plays a huge role in this now in today’s society. As a young performer, I still find myself going through these thoughts and feelings. I try to use those parts of me to make my performance of Gretchen authentic to who I am.

Mean Girls Musical - Mirvish - Toronto

Pictured (L-R): Kristen Amanda Smith (Gretchen Wieners), Maya Petropoulos (Regina George), Maryrose Brendel (Karen Smith), and Natalie Shaw (Cady Heron). Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson, 2023.

Audience members will probably expect some of the most iconic lines from the film. What are your favorites?

Mary Rose: Yes! Tina Fey’s brilliant, witty humor is woven throughout our entire show. My favorite line has to be “grool. I meant to say great but then I started to say cool!” I get to watch this iconic moment from the wing every night- Natalie Shaw delivers it perfectly.

Kristen Amanda: My favorite iconic lines are “Whatever, I’m getting cheese fries.” and “And none for Gretchen Wieners, bye.”

Being in a musical is very different from film. There’s more interaction with the audience. What is that like for you as a performer?

Mary Rose: Particularly as a comedic character, there’s a lot of give and take with the audience. When a joke lands, you know.

Kristen Amanda: We really feed off of the energy of the audience. If the audience is reacting, laughing, and having a good time, that really allows us to enjoy what we’re doing on stage even more.

What do you love about the character you play?

Mary Rose: My favorite thing about playing Karen is the joyful, positive headspace that she lives in. Every night I leave the theater in a happy mood. I also love making people laugh every night. It’s so rewarding and as an actor it allows me to keep things fresh, as every audience is different. And finally, I do really love the shoes. Playing Karen comes with the most incredible collection of shoes, picked out by our amazing costume team. I get to live out my Carrie Bradshaw dreams every night in some pretty fabulous shoes.

Kristen Amanda: I love Gretchen’s heart. I think she really is a genuine girl who is trying to find her way through the stress of high school and she is misunderstood by many, including Regina.

If you could ask Tina Fey anything about this storyline, what would that be?

Kristen Amanda: I would love to ask Tina Fey what happens between to The Plastics and Cady after Regina gets hit by the bus? Specifically, does Gretchen ever get to talk to Cady before spring fling?

The original film was mostly shot in Toronto! So, what’s on your Toronto must-see and do list while you’re here?

Kristen Amanda: I can’t wait to see all that Toronto has to offer! I’m also excited to see Niagara Falls.

Mean Girls will play The Royal Alexandra Theatre July 30 – August 25, 2024. Tickets are on sale now at Mirvish.com

FUN MEAN GIRLS MOVIE FACTS…

For your next social gathering chatter, here are a few locations the original Mean Girls movie was known to have been filmed!

  • Convocation Hall, University of Toronto, was the location for Cady’s Mathletes competition
  • Malvern Collegiate Institute (Gym) doubled as North Shore High School’s Spring Fling.
  • Etobicoke Collegiate Institute was the set for North Shore High School, exterior and the field behind the school was also used in the film
  • Sherway Gardens was the go-to mall where Cady and The Plastics go shopping.
  • 11 High Point Road was where Regina’s mansion was located. The exterior was used.

What else is playing in Toronto?

Check out our interview with the cast of WICKED here.

*Lead in Feature Photo: Pictured (L-R): Natalie Shaw (Cady Heron), Kristen Amanda Smith (Gretchen Wieners), Maya Petropoulos (Regina George), and Maryrose Brendel (Karen Smith). Photo Credit: Jenny Anderson, 2023