Tina Fey talks making ‘Mean Girls’ sing onstage

There are movies that feel like unlikely inspirations for musicals, but “Mean Girls” isn’t one of them.

With its quippy humor and larger-than-life characters, the iconic and much-quoted 2004 teen comedy about high school hierarchy and the tyranny of the social elite lends itself well to the song-and-dance treatment.

Now finally hitting San Francisco on tour, the hit Broadway musical of “Mean Girls” boasts a book by “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” veteran Tina Fey, who costarred in the movie and wrote its screenplay, loosely inspired by Rosalind Wiseman’s nonfiction parental advice book “Queen Bees and Wannabes.”

Tina Fey jokes that “Mean Girls” is akin to her “Marvel Universe,” with a film, a stage musical and a planned film of the stage musical all part of the franchise. (Evan Agostini/Associated Press archives) 


Fey is a longtime musical theater fan, but this was her first experience actually writing a stage musical. And some adjustments were in order.

“So many jokes in the original film play in the voiceover or in a small facial reaction,” Fey says. “What kinds of jokes (for the stage version) can still be true to the characters but play to the back of a large house? I had studied playwriting in school but had written for TV for so long, and I’d worked at ‘SNL’ where it’s for the TV lens, but also there’s a live audience in the house that it has to work for too. So that was a fun challenge.”

The music is by Jeff Richmond, Fey’s husband, who was also the composer for “30 Rock” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the former music director of “Saturday Night Live.” The lyrics are by Nell Benjamin, who co-wrote both the music and lyrics for the 2007 musical “Legally Blonde” with her husband, Laurence O’Keefe.

Richmond got his college degree in musical theater and had written a few musicals before he broke into TV, such as a werewolf comedy titled “Lobo a Go-Go,” but never on this scale.

“All these other musicals that I’d written were written fast, put up fast,” Richmond recalls. “That coupled with all the years of writing with Tina and for ‘SNL,’ working with comedy writers and writing for TV and film, the idea that writing a musical to try to get it to Broadway was going to take five years at the earliest sounded insane. We just couldn’t comprehend it. But the truth is, it takes that long.”

One of the most fundamental questions was what the musical world of this play should sound like.

“When we started, I kept thinking, ‘We’re doing this musical and it’s about teenage girls in high school. This has got to feel like Taylor Swift or stuff that’s on the radio,’” Richmond recalls. “And when Nell and I actually first started trying to find out what kind of songs felt right as we lined them up with different characters, it turned into a very eclectic mix of styles, because each one of the characters inhabited a certain kind of personality or world reference that informed …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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