Malibu High students make ‘Mean Girls’ happen

The Malibu High School production team for "Mean Girls" is shown on stage. Photos by Colin Drummond.

School’s three-day run of popular musical’s high school version astounds rapt audience

By Barbara Burke 

Special to the Malibu Times

“I had a blast at Mean Girls!” Doug DeLuca, a Malibu High School parent who came to support the school’s production, exclaimed. “The talent blew me away — it felt like watching an off-Broadway hit instead of a high school musical.” 

For three days in Malibu, proud parents, family and friends, and members of the community thoroughly enjoyed MHS’s production of “Mean Girls,” the Broadway musical high school version, a rendition of the iconic 2004 film and its Broadway musical counterpart. 

“Mean Girls” tells the story of Cady Heron, who starts high school at 16, being home-schooled by her scientist parents in Kenya for the first 15 years of her life. The play is a brutal, but accurate, take on high school cliques, gossiping, and peer pressure.  Cady quickly encounters “The Plastics,” a group of popular girls who rule the school through intimidation, back-stabbing and bullying. Although Cady originally joined the Plastics as a joke — and to spy on them for her new friends Janis and Damian, she becomes immersed in the Plastics’ world, desperately trying to be accepted, and in the process, she discovers the dark side of high school friendships.

Although Slashfilm’s Ethan Anderton once opined that “Mean Girls” was “the generation-defining high school movie” capturing the teenage culture of the early 2000s, the Malibu High performance audience, most of whom are teens, related to the updated high school version.

The roles of Regina (Windy Wildman), Cady (Sophie Regan), Janis (Alex Murphy), Damian (Nick Ortiz), Gretchen (Shannon Rosen), Karen (Kylie Morra), and Aaron (Noah Baron) were all superbly performed, and the vocal numbers were nothing short of tremendous, with the MHS pit band, coached by Vince Juardo, accompanying the performers.

From the moment the curtain rises to Regan preparing to leave Kenya for the U.S. (which she and her mother comedically comment is “currently politically unstable,” and where “almost everybody is on opioids”) to the ending when — after intervening trauma, drama, and yes, a lot of karma — there is a genuine Kumbaya among the key characters. MHS’s actors, musicians, and the stage crew, ably managed by senior Kate Baker, who has served in that role for four years, performed professionally and entertained the delighted audience.

The Malibu Times caught up with Wildman and Regan and asked them how they prepared for their roles and what, in their mind, the central messages of the play are.

“I have worked to find the balance in my Cady Heron’s truth in each decision she makes,” Regan said. “Pulling from the real feeling of wanting to be accepted and feeling like you need to change yourself to fit others, but in the end realizing you can only find your people when you’re truly yourself.” 

For her part, Wildman commented, “In our production of ‘Mean Girls,’ I play Regina George, the antagonist of the show. Throughout the show, the story follows the idea of social norms and what it is like to be a teenager in modern society, and figure out who you are and how to stay true to that in the midst of a society pressed by said social norms.” 

Wildman elaborated, “Strangely enough, I contribute to these central ideas by being the catalyst of them, as the main ‘mean girl.’ Yet, having my character brought to her downfall and hit by a bus, I simultaneously symbolize the breaking down of societal stereotypes.”

Seniors Regan and Wildman are best friends, have been involved in dramatic arts since early childhood, and — no small feat — have both been accepted into NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for Dramatic Arts, all facts that add complexity to their on-stage performances in “Mean Girls.” 

“The relationship between Regina and Cady in the play is one of my favorites in the whole show because they each have such a deep character turnaround that they truly get to experience together,” Regan said. “The scene when Regina and Cady both choose to forgive and reconnect highlights how both of them changed the other.”  

When asked whether, in her mind, the central theme of the play focuses on loyalty or girl power, a hotly debated issue amongst critics since the original play debuted, Wildman responded, “I personally believe that it is in some ways about both! I would definitely say that female empowerment, and just the empowerment of all those around you in general, is a huge takeaway from the show and essentially, is what I believe to be the central message. However, there is definitely an underlying theme of loyalty — not necessarily to others, but loyalty to your true self, and to not changing yourself for anyone or anything, and we hope that both of those ideas are something people are able to feel and take away from our show!”

“Mean Girls” was also the senior showcase for Baker, who has served as the stage manager for four years. 

“A production like ‘Mean Girls’ truly takes a village,” Regan said. “We had our MHS Vocal Director Dr. Krysta Sorensen teaching us vocals and giving us every tool to make sure we can sing at our peak in the most healthy way for such a demanding show, Ms. Brigette Leonard was our amazing director making the show look its best and feel as natural as possible and they, together with the MHS Band, led by Conductor Mr. John Kibbler and Musical Director Joellen “Cha Cha” McNaughton — they are the reason the show comes alive every night.”

As attendees left the opening performance of “Mean Girls,” many commented that the performers’ futures are bright and, to use the language of the last vocal number in Mean Girls, a few of them commented metaphorically, “I see stars!”