Photo courtesy Broadway in Portland

Last night, my 18-year-old son and I saw Tina Fey’s Mean Girls at Keller Auditorium. Based on the iconic 2004 movie also written by Fey, Mean Girls is a coming-of-age comedy that, except for the singing and dancing, stays true to the movie. 

The show follows Cady Heron, an awkward homeschooled teen who moves from rural Africa to Chicago and is excited to make friends on her first day of school. Though she’s more inclined to join the mathletes, Cady ends up being groomed by the clique at the top of the social food chain, a group of shallow, stuck up, rich girls known as “The Plastics.” Over time, Cady believes the lie that being beautiful, thin and powerful is more important than being kind, smart and true to yourself. She joins in body shaming, spreading mean lies and rumors, and pretending to be stupid to get a boy’s attention. In the end, she learns her lesson, and there’s a moral to the story: Stop trying so hard to be liked and just be yourself. And, as Janis says, “Even if you don’t like someone, they’re still a human being.” 

Overall, the show was great fun. The writing is classic Tina Fey and both my son and I burst out laughing multiple times. Bits by characters Damian and Karen and one-liners from the ensemble were hilarious. The performers, choreography and production design, which relies heavily on massive video screens, were all top notch and worked together seamlessly to tell the story. Several musical numbers dazzled us with witty lyrics, creative use of props and inventive choreography. There was even tap dancing. Twice. The lyrics tell the story, and many of them are deliciously clever, but it was sometimes too loud in the theater to hear the words. If you plan on attending, I recommend listening to the soundtrack beforehand so you won’t get lost.

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Like other musicals about high school (think Grease), there’s a lot of sex, including innuendo-filled lyrics and suggestive dance moves. My son thought the show accurately depicted high school, “because there are a lot of sex jokes in high school.” Most of it was played for laughs, but for this reason, I’d only bring mature teens ages 13 and older.  

Arrive half an hour early so you have time to park and get into the theater. Vaccine cards and IDs are checked at the door, so there was a long queue wrapped around the building. But look around before getting in line; two shorter lines were located on the other side of the main entrance. Face masks are required and I only saw one person take theirs off when they weren’t actively sipping a drink or taking a quick photo. 

Mean Girls plays through Sunday, November 14, then heads to Seattle. Next for Broadway in Portland is The Band’s Visit in January. For even more shows, check out our Performing Arts Guide.

Elizabeth Ely Moreno
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