Cover Story

So Fetch: "Mean Girls" Is About to Hit Broadway Harder Than a Yellow School Bus

(From left) Mean Girls dancers Riza Takahashi, Ben Cook, Kamille Upshaw, Jonalyn Saxer, DeMarius R. Copes, and Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette (photos by Erin Baiano)

Get in, losers. We're going to Broadway.

OK, not losers, actually—more like the bajillion die-hard fans of Tina Fey's 2004 cult hit Mean Girls, who've been wearing pink every Wednesday since a musical adaptation of the film was first teased back in 2013.

Now their world is like a cake filled with rainbows and smiles, because Mean Girls the musical, which had a trial run in Washington, DC, last fall, is set to open at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre April 8. And in a very grool twist, it turns out the show—with direction and choreography by Casey Nicholaw and a book by Fey herself—is delightfully dancey.

"If you've got high school kids in a show and they're not dancing, there's something wrong," Nicholaw says, with a laugh. Though the only real choreo in the movie happened during the infamous "Jingle Bell Rock" number (spoiler alert: You will not hear that song in the show), Nicholaw used dance to help the Mean Girls story cohere onstage. "Tina's writing style for the show was very much the way she wrote for the movie, or for '30 Rock,' with lots of quick cuts and transitions," Nicholaw says. "On film, you can do one cut to someone saying, 'What's the date?' And another to the response: 'It's October third.' And then you can cut out of the scene. But onstage, you can't change your whole set for that one moment. So, how do you tell that story theatrically? With video and, especially, with dance."

The Mean Girls ensemble dances throughout the entire show—"a mix of hip hop, contemporary, and musical theater choreography, because that's what felt true to right now," Nicholaw says. And that eclecticism requires a versatile group of top-notch dancers. "These dancers are absolutely spectacular," Nicholaw says. "They're so talented, so committed, so game. And they're just good people on top of it." They are, in other words, about as un-Plastic as they come.

Meet six of Mean Girls' fabulous dancers. Just how fabulous are they? The limit does not exist.

Kamille Upshaw

(Erin Baiano)

Her dancing in three emojis: 🦋 🔥 💜

Hidden talent: "I actually wanted to minor in interior design in college! I love making a space beautiful but also functional."

Dance idol: "I could never pick one! I have tons of idols of different ages and in different dance genres. My idol list keeps growing, and I keep learning."

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: "Nail clippers—not for me, but for my cat!"

How obsessed she was with Mean Girls before joining the cast: "I've been obsessed with Mean Girls since it came out, when I was in high school. My friends and I would watch it over and over."

Favorite moment from Mean Girls: "It's not what happens onstage, but the show that's happening backstage.
Our traffic and spacing back there are just as choreographed as what the audience gets to see."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'Get in, loser. We're going shopping.' I love shopping, so it only seems appropriate!"

Mean Girls character she most relates to: "Janis. She's a vulnerable soul who's had her ups and downs, but always stays true to the qualities that define her. I may never have created a crazy plan to take down an 'army of skanks,' but I've always believed in being who you are."

Best cheese fries she's ever eaten: "I had the best cheese fries ever in Switzerland circa 2012. I can still taste the cheese
in my mouth."

Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Everyone is dealing with their own issues, and sometimes bullying is a result of pent-up emotions that have nothing to do with the victim. Stay true to yourself, and remember you are strong enough to rise above."

Ben Cook

(Erin Baiano)

His dancing in three emojis: 🙆🕺🏿 🤸

Hidden talent: "I've loved photography since I was a little kid. My dad is a dance photographer himself, and he inspired me to pick up a camera when I was 10 years old. It's been one of my favorite hidden hobbies ever since."

If he were a superhero, his power would be: "Flying! Mainly so I wouldn't have to worry about the trains into midtown."

Dance idol: "Bob Fosse. I was initially inspired by the alley dance he did with Jack Lemmon in My Sister Eileen."

Weirdest thing in his dance bag: "My cupping set! It's a contraption designed to release the fascia around your muscles."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'She doesn't even go here!' "

Mean Girls character he most relates to: "Damian, because he's outgoing and positive and so genuine. I'd like to think I have some of those qualities, and I think we could all learn from Damian's positivity and open-mindedness."

Best cheese fries he's ever eaten: "I'd never eaten cheese fries until a press event we did last fall. I really liked them!"

Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Know that whatever those bullies are saying to you is coming from their own insecurities. They feel the need to put others down because they're not comfortable in their own skin. Take whatever they say with a grain of salt and continue to be the beautiful person you are."

Riza Takahashi

(Erin Baiano)

Her dancing in three emojis: 💗 😆 🔥

Hidden talent: "I speak fluent Japanese! I was born and raised in Japan, and it's my first language."

If she were a superhero, her power would be: "Teleportation! It'd be really fun to go anywhere around the world at a moment's notice."

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: "A rope. I promise it's a tool for stretching my hamstrings."

How obsessed she was with Mean Girls before joining this cast: "I was still living in Japan when the movie first came out, so I missed the initial hype. But I've been obsessed with it ever since I first saw it!"

Favorite moment from Mean Girls: "This is going to sound kind of selfish, but I love when Cady gives a shout-out to my character at the Spring Fling. She tells me I'm beautiful and that my dress is amazing."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'Fetch!' "

Mean Girls character she most relates to: "Janis. When I was younger, I also questioned what true friendship meant. I finally realized I'd rather be me, and I'd rather have friends who accept me for who I am."

Best cheese fries she's ever eaten: "I don't eat cheese fries that often, but I used to love poutine when I lived in Canada. Does that count?" [Editor's note: Poutine, like, invented cheese fries, you know what we mean?]

Her advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "In Japan, we believe in karma. Treat those mean girls with respect and kindness. Trust me, it'll bring you good things in the future."

Stephanie Lynn Bissonnette

(Erin Baiano)

Her dancing in three emojis: 💁🏻 🔥 🍑

Hidden talent: "I used to work construction in high school, so I could put a roof on your house."

If she were a superhero, her power would be: "Teleportation!"

Dance idol: Michael Jackson

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: "My good-luck scarf from when I played Peggy Sawyer in my high school production of 42nd Street."

How obsessed she was with Mean Girls before she joined the cast: "So obsessed. I'm a true superfan of Mean Girls and everything Tina Fey has ever done. I'd actually been joking with my friends for a long time that if Mean Girls were ever made into a musical, it would be my Broadway debut—and here we are! It's crazy."

Favorite number from Mean Girls: " 'Apex Predator,' which takes place at the mall. It's so powerful having just the women onstage belting and throwing down some hard-hitting, grounded hip hop. It's a really strong female moment."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'Nice wig, Janis. What's it made of?' 'Your mom's chest hair!' It's just the most perfect comeback."

Mean Girls character she most relates to: "I relate most to Janis. I've always loved the arts and marched to the beat of my own drum."

Best cheese fries she's ever eaten: "They were from the Titus Mountain Ski Resort in Malone, NY."

Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Stay true to yourself. Surround yourself with friends who support you and lift you up. Do your thing!"

Jonalyn Saxer

(Erin Baiano)

Her dancing in three emojis: 😆 👯 💥

Hidden talent: "I have a very well-rehearsed 'toddler pageant walk'—as in 'Toddlers and Tiaras.' "

If she were a superhero, her power would be: "I think flying. It'd make everything so much easier!"

Dance idols: "It's a tie between Ginger Rogers and The Nicholas Brothers. Their musicality and energy are so infectious!"

Weirdest thing in her dance bag: "I have this pen that has a figurine of Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty) at the top. For some reason, it's always the only pen I'm able to find. It's signed many important documents."

How obsessed she was with Mean Girls before joining this cast: "I've always loved and constantly quoted the movie. Who didn't? And when I saw that it was being made into a musical, I said, 'I have to be in that.' "

Favorite moment from Mean Girls: "My favorite moments all happen backstage! We always find a way to connect with each other before going on—we do a little handshake, or make a joke. And once we're onstage, we continue that connection in a genuine way."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'I'm a mouse, duh.' "

Mean Girls character she most relates to: "Of the principals, I'd say Cady. But for our show, we really got to shape who our ensemble characters were. So I made Kelly, my character, a lot like I was in high school."

Best cheese fries she's ever eaten: "At the Islands restaurant chain. They know how to do cheese fries."

Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Let it roll off your back. You can't control what other people say and do, but you have power over how it affects you. And find something you love. If you have a passion that you can throw yourself into when the people around you are bothering you, it will help your problems disappear."

DeMarius R. Copes

(Erin Baiano)

His dancing in three emojis: 😏 😝 🎭

If he were a superhero, his power would be: "The power to protect people from negativity, maybe. Or the power to
be anywhere I want at any given time."

Dance idol: "Desmond Richardson, one million percent."

Weirdest thing in his dance bag: Samoan Sand fingernail polish

Favorite moment from Mean Girls: "The reveal of The Plastics in Act 1. In tech, the first time the walls opened up to reveal those three women, my jaw was on the floor. We had to stop rehearsal just to appreciate the moment. To this day, it takes my breath away."

Favorite iconic Mean Girls quote: " 'You can go shave your back now.' I just think it's so hysterical, and so random."

Mean Girls character he most relates to: "I relate to all three Plastics at different points in my life, but if I were an actual person from the show it would be Gretchen. She's honestly just trying to have a good time without getting run over. If you needed a male to play Gretchen in her 20s, I'd be pretty amazing."

Best cheese fries he's ever eaten: "I don't like regular cheese fries. I do enjoy chili cheese fries from Sonic. I'd get them every day after school in 7th and 8th grade."

Advice for kids dealing with bullying by their own "mean girls": "Stand up for yourself. Bullies aren't too tough beyond the words they use. Don't let words faze you. You're better than that. Stronger than that. Fiercer than that. And definitely more iconic than a bully.

A version of this story appeared in the April 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "So. Fetch."

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