Onstage / Preview of MEAN GIRLS
National tour beginning in Buffalo this month
Syracuse alum Mary Kate Morrissey (left) stars as Janis in Mean Girls.
Photo by © 2017 Joan Marcus
Music: Jeff Richmond
Lyrics: Neil Benjamin
Book: Tina Fey
Shea’s Performing Arts Center, 646 Main St.
When the Mean Girls national tour begins in Buffalo this month, Mary Kate Morrissey, who plays Janis, will be looking forward to a lot of things: her first tour in Buffalo (this is her fourth tour), being in the Northeast in fall (she’s from Philadelphia and went to school at Syracuse University), making history with her character’s song (more on that later), and not having to put on makeup every single night (she was most recently on tour as Wicked’s Elphaba for fourteen months).
“That was a little long. I had green in my hairline and ears and everything. It’ll be nice to be my own skin tone and taking pictures after the show will be so much easier,” Morrissey laughs. “Janis is mostly like playing myself. I’m very sarcastic and creative, and Janis is who I wanted to be when I was in high school. Janis is counter on purpose, an artist, wild and creative, loves really hard, and is really loyal, so, when someone breaks her trust, it shatters her. She’s the moral compass of the show, she and Damien. It’s going to be a really fun thing to slip into every night.” (In fact, Morrissey went in to read to replace Regina on Broadway, but when the Mean Girls team—including book writer Tina Fey—heard her, they had her read Janis cold and cast her for the tour within hours.)
For the uninitiated, Morrissey describes Mean Girls as a story “about a home-schooled transplant to a public school and the dynamic among women, the trials that can happen in high school, and the high stakes, all mixed with parties and pressure to be someone you’re not, and searching for your own identity whether that’s fitting in or sticking out—all set to the soundtrack of music of today.”
One of those songs, “I’d Rather Be Me,” is sung by Janis in the second act, and Morrissey says it’s the first song in musical theater history that is sung by a woman to a group of women that is not about men. “Try to think of another where that’s not the case,” she challenges. “I’m going to be myself for me and not for some dude. I think it’s so cool that it’s musical theater history. So, watch for that.”
Beyond that, she promises it’s a very stimulating show. “The music is really catchy, the costumes are cool and funky. It’s really fun and contemporary, which is what people are craving,” she says. “It’s the opposite of boring.”