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Mean Girls National Tour Playbill
Mean Girls National Tour Playbill
Photo by Kayla Alonzo
Culture > Entertainment

The Silence is Deafening When It Comes To New Musical Releases

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TX State chapter.

“Get in losers! We’re going to go see the new Mean Girls movie!”

This is what most fans of the iconic Mean Girls franchise exclaimed as they bought tickets to the 2024 reimagining of the 2004 classic. However, to much surprise, instead of a shot for shot remake of the original film, audiences were met with the filmed adaptation of the hit Broadway musical based on the movie. A Mean Girls the Movie the Musical the Movie if you will! 

The 2024 film adaptation was full of a musically acclaimed cast including Reneé Rapp, Auli’i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey, and Ashley Park. 

Rapp, who was cast in the staged Mean Girls musical at the age of 19 is reprising her role as the leader of the plastics, Regina George for the new film. Rapp became known for her musical talents after winning the Jimmy Awards, a national high school competition for musical theatre performers in 2018. Cravalho is best known for voicing the Disney Princess Moana when she was just 16 years old. Spivey won a 2022 Tony award in the category of Best Musical for A Strange Loop where he originated the lead role of Usher. Park originated the role of Gretchen Wieners in the Mean Girls Broadway musical, and Tina Fey originated the role of Mrs. Norbury in the original film, wrote the screenplay for the musical, and reprised her role in the 2024 adaptation. 

Despite having many well-known artists, this cast was not enough to inform audiences of what they would be seeing once inside the movie theater. The trailers advertising the movie’s release only included a snippet of Rapp singing “Meet the Plastics”, and Olivia Rodrigo’s “get him back.” Along with this, there were hardly any shots that showcased choreography or anything that resembled a musical. This in turn, blindsided audience members into believing that the new Mean Girls was a remake of the original film. 

The marketing team behind this adaption also barely highlighted the fact the movie was a musical within all promotional material as they only put a small musical note in the middle of the letter “A” in “MEAN GIRLS for any of the official logos or posters. With trailers being shown rather quickly, this “hint” or small detail can be missed in the blink of an eye. 

This practice that Hollywood executives and marketing teams adopted was also seen with the 2017 release of The Greatest Showman, as many audiences were shocked when Hugh Jackman, known for his iconic role in Marvel’s Wolverine, began the movie by breaking into song. In 2024 alone, there have already been three movie musicals that were not properly advertised including Mean Girls, The Color Purple, and Wonka. With this continuous spreading of misinformation, audiences on both sides of the spectrum who either dislike or highly enjoy movie musicals are let down by these now commonplace tactics. 

What is Hollywood’s reasoning for this? They conducted focus group screenings of these films and see that the majority of people are turned off from musicals in general. In an interview by Variety, President of Paramount’s Global Marketing and Distribution Marc Weinstock discussed the choices behind the lack of proper advertising. He said “We didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical because people tend to treat musicals differently… Yes, it could be considered a musical but it appeals to a larger audience.” The problem, however, lies in the fact that they are testing a general audience of people rather than groups that would highly enjoy the film for how it intended. Fans of the Broadway show, myself included, love the original cast recording as it showcases the fun, campy, and iconic elements of the nostalgic movie it was based on. 

What fans of the musical find most disappointing seems to be the blatant modernization of the musical soundtrack by changing the original instrumental arrangements. In the Broadway cast recording, the songs sound energetic and empowering. The movie chose to go in a different direction by changing the music to a severely toned-down, low-level bubblegum pop orchestration. This ultimately led to a huge lack of emotion and even the omission of the ensemble’s vocals that are highly admired on the Broadway soundtrack. In this new adaptation of the movie, it feels as though the songs fall flat because of the overall change to the music. 

Audiences can’t identify with what the characters’ want as they sound highly unbothered when singing through their feelings or motivations for why they are behaving a certain way. This is especially apparent in songs such as “If Then” which replaced Cady Heron’s introduction song “It Roars” from the original cast album. A song that sounds entirely different is “Stupid With Love” where Cady first meets her love interest Aaron Samuels, as this song feels dull in comparison to the musical’s version. The song “Revenge Party” where Cady, Janis, and Damian decide to plot against Regina presents with minimal energy whereas its predecessor made people want to rebel alongside the characters. 

This adaptation also cut many significant things from the soundtrack. In the song “Meet the Plastics” which introduces both Cady and the audience to the iconic trio, the new film completely removes Karen and Gretchen’s verses, leaving the sole focus on the Queen Bee herself, Regina George. Another instance of this is in the song “World Burn” sung by Regina where the ensemble is completely removed from the piece while also drastically slowing down the tempo of the backing track. In general, most of the mixing choices for these songs resemble an up-and-coming Tik Tok creator who is trying to make a name for themself, only further alienating the movie from the original musical. 

This is no means a critique of the actors or their performance for what they were given. I firmly admire the entire cast for their dedication to this process. It is rather a criticism of the directorial and production choices that were made when developing this movie. They were lacking that touch of passion that comes from making a musical of any kind. 

Some examples of breathtaking movie musicals in the last decade include La La Land, Bohemian Rhapsody, Les Miserables, In the Heights, The Prom, Tick, Tick, BOOM!, and even the 2021 remake of West Side Story. What sets these films apart from these newer musical films is that the creative team behind them understood and fully embraced the musicality and creativity that is encompassed in this specific medium of art. Lin Manuel Miranda was directly involved as a producer when adapting his original musical of In the Heights, and later went on to make his directorial debut for Tick, Tick, BOOM!, which then earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Editing. This further proves that it takes a willingness and desire of those on the creative team to produce musical to screen adaptations that resonate well with audiences. 

Several of these musical films have earned the actors within them incredible accolades including several Best Actress and Best Actor nominations and wins. Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Cosette in Les Mis  Emma Stone won Best Actress at the 2017 Oscars for her performance in La La Land. Rami Malek won playing Best Actor for playing the iconic role of Queen’s Freddie Mercury. Ariana Debose won an Oscar for playing Anita in the remake of West Side Story, where Rita Moreno won that same category for originating the role 50 years earlier. Andrew Garfield was also nominated fore Best Actor for depicting the life of Jonathan Larson, a beloved musical theatre composer behind the hit show RENT. 

Seeing this shift in this form of media in the last few years is very disappointing to say the least, because there is an audience that would love to see more of these types of films produced. The irony of this debate is that in the early 1940s and 50s, audiences were captivated by films with musical numbers such as Wizard of Oz, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, A Star Is Born and Singing in the Rain. These soon became historic cinematic experiences for generations to enjoy. Even the long list of films produced by Disney, especially Snow White, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, The Little Mermaid and The Lion King would go o to inspire younger audiences. The list goes on and on with movies like this that have heavily made an undeniable global impact.

It is films like these that inspired creativity and helped people find their form of escapism in the chaotic world we live in. For today’s society, we need that more than ever. The ability to create, to feel alive and to see visions of how the world could be, originated from musicals like these. It is an unfortunate reality that the Hollywood industry has lost touch with that ideal in favor of creating something solely based on the likelihood of making a profit. We can only hope in the future that people find their voice and reignite the passion for these risk-taking movies and for art itself. Once upon a time, that was inspired through the passionate, dedicated, and truly heartfelt projects that would have audiences enjoying moments of song and dance without a care in the world. 

Mean Girls National Tour Playbill
Photo by Kayla Alonzo
Kayla Alonzo

TX State '25

Kayla Alonzo is a new member of the Writer's Team with Her Campus at Texas State University. She is a third year Theatre and Dance Major studying Design and Technology with an emphasis in Stage Management. Kayla is also an aspiring writer and playwright who continues to create original pieces about personal connections from her experiences and those around her. In her spare time, Kayla enjoys listening to her favorite artists, watching plays and musicals, and spending time with her friends and family.