Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
Queen Bees, Wannabes, Apex Predators, and…Mathletes? No, this isn't a naming mix-up: it's Osbourn Park High School's delightfully funny production of Mean Girls High School Version!
Written by Jeff Richmond, Nell Benjamin and Tina Fey and based on the classic 2004 movie, "MEAN GIRLS The Musical" originally premiered in 2017 in Washington, DC's National Theatre, moving to Broadway the next year. The show follows Cady, a teenage girl who joins North Shore High School after moving to the United States from Kenya. As she joins, however, she realizes that social cliques rule the school, with the powerful "Plastics", led by Regina George, being the top of the food chain.
Taking the stage as the iconic Cady Heron, Savannah Smith held a dynamic range of personality, starting off as the unsure "new kid" but gracefully transforming into the power-corrupted "queen bee". As Cady realized the hypocrisy of who she had become, Smith transformed once more into a truly remorseful figure, letting her vocals ring on stage and capturing the emotion of the scene. Yet every good show needs a great antagonist, and from her very first appearance in "Meet the Plastics", Megan Kaess' Regina George proved formidable. Kaess proved a powerhouse, embodying the power-hungry and desperate Plastic from soft, manipulative vocals during early power plays through breathy, bitter declarations as Regina plotted against Cady. With intense belting and flowing movements, Kaess allowed George to command the stage, truly earning her status as the "pretty poison".
Gracing the stage as the dynamic duo of Karen and Gretchen, respectively, Khailah Schroeter and Katie Scharlat filled the stage with comedy, commitment, and consistency. Blending high-energy comedy with crisp, "barbie-esque" movements from her humorful solo in "Sexy" to her genuine moments in "Stop," Schroeter's bubbly portrayal of Karen lit up the stage, lending an honest naivety to the character. This combined wonderfully with Scharlat's depiction of Gretchen, who, whether with giddy excitement when helping Cady or Regina, to anxious tics when rebuked, or authentic joy when getting the chance to prove herself, gave a character that felt unsure yet human and empathetic all the same.
The show was elevated by the lighting design of Emily Ta, with each character or group having a distinct color scheme: green for Janis, orange for Cady, pink for the Plastics, blue for the Mathletes, and so on. This establishment of familiarity, combined with large washes across the stage, allowed moments such as the gradual shift from pink to red during Regina's vengeful "World Burns" or the slow taking-over of pink from orange as Cady transformed into a true Plastic to carry an emotional weight and enhance the journey the characters were taking.
This was joined by Ash Payne's and Sammy Shope's incorporation of projections in the back of the set. Whether from brilliant comedic juxtaposition of graphics of world peace and Halloween during "Sexy" or unique displays for different classrooms, the two helped lend a sense of immersion into the show. Karis Judd and Patrick Manyin's set design helped further this, with a dynamic set consisting of cleverly utilized small pieces (such as the rotation of chairs to signify a quick-change from class to class) and grand scenic elements (including a two-tiered set with a staircase and full bedroom for the house party).
From genuine solos, terrifying revenge montages, or humorous escapades, Osbourn Park High School's production of Mean Girls High School Version shows that there's two sides to every story– and that we all have our place we belong.
Chantilly High School
Sometimes the chatter in a school hallway can sound like the hungry snapping of a lion's jaws. Osbourn Park High School took the audience on the wild safari ride that is the teenage experience in their production of Mean Girls High School Version.
Based on the 2002 book and its 2004 movie, Mean Girls roared to life as a musical in 2017, debuting at the National Theatre in Washington, DC, and quickly claimed a place on Broadway a year later. The musical depicts the story of Cady Heron, a homeschooled teenage girl who suddenly must move away from her isolated life in rural Africa, where most of her friends consist of animals. She lands in the middle of an American high school, terrified by the enormous changes she must face. However, after meeting the popular girls, nicknamed The Plastics, Cady discovers teenagers are not all that different from feral animals.
Savannah Smith skillfully took on Cady's wide range of emotional adaptations. At the opening, her tone was light and bubbly, portraying excitement at the prospect of finally experiencing high school. After attending school, Smith nuanced Cady's movements with a slight shake as she found other kids to be more hostile than she had anticipated. The most impressive evolution was the transformation into a bratty mean girl after befriending the Plastics. Smith paired an arrogant strut with a "plastic" artificially unintelligent intonation, showing careful consideration of each aspect of her performance. Her vocals at the end of the show when singing "Do This Thing" were gorgeously rich, emphasizing Cady's final emotional arc where she becomes her true self again.
Megan Kaess' Regina was the perfect predator. She towered over her pack of high schoolers as the obvious Queen, making a deliciously threatening entrance atop a rolling cafeteria table. Kaess' voice excelled at conveying Regina's place at the top of the food chain. She possessed a light and deceivingly gentle purr that dripped with sinister intentions, punctuating each sentence with a hint of sass. Kaess' solos further built Regina's power, delivering exhilarating high notes in "World Burn" that echoed around the walls of the theater. Completing the predatory pack was Katie Scharlat as Gretchen and Khailah Schroeter as Karen. Scharlat expertly delivered Gretchen's nervous energy through speedy, but exquisitely articulated words and awkward body language, shining light through the cracks in the seemingly unbreakable Plastics. Schroeter was hilarious, fabulously demonstrating Karen's unawareness through a spectacularly Barbie-like walk and aptly timed gullibility that was the source of hysterical laughter radiating through the audience.
The Set Team, Karis Judd and Patrick Manyin, worked flawlessly to construct the rapidly changing world in Mean Girls. Settings were numerous and extraordinarily detailed, including a two-level piece that featured Cady's upstairs bedroom, forming a sweetly intimate and isolated spot for "More is Better." The obviously dedicated set team's creativity was evident as they mixed and matched set pieces, such as a classroom chalkboard being converted into a bedroom mirror. Each setting was placed on wheels and the Stage Crew, The OPHS Run Crew, rolled them on swiftly and efficiently, making effortless scene changes that ensured the story never paused.
Predators come in all forms, sometimes they wear the stripes of a menacing tiger, and other times they're camouflaged in pink. Osbourn Park High School's production of Mean Girls was a playful ride through growing up, revealing that while high school can feel like a hunting ground, no one has to let themselves become the prey.