Jonalyn Saxer, Mariah Rose Faith, Megan Masako Haley, and Danielle Wade in a promotional photo for the national tour of the musical Mean Girls. Photo by Mary Ellen Matthews.
Minneapolis is about to get mean. Mean Girls, that is. The brand-new national tour of this Broadway musical kicked off in Buffalo, NY on September 21st. It’s second stop? The Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, where the show opens tomorrow. Of course, after agreeing to sit with the Plastics, on Wednesday you should wear pink.
The stage musical version of Mean Girls has taken an unusually swift journey from Broadway to national tour. While the Lindsay Lohan film on which it is based opened all the way back in 2004, the stage musical (also with a script by Tina Fey, but with music by Jeff Richmond and lyrics by Nell Benjamin) only had its out-of-town premiere back in October 2017. The Broadway production opened in April 2018, which makes the tour’s arrival on the Twin Cities’ doorstep just 18 months from B to M.
Mean Girls occupies a certain place in the cultural tapestry of Millennials and post-Millennials, much as Eighties films like Pretty in Pink and Back to the Future were tightly woven into the psyche of the generation before them. The rambunctious teens of Mean Girls: The Musical, however, get to burn it down in a whole new 21st-century fashion, building a buzz that helped to garner the show 12 Tony nominations. What’s more, the national tour features a new showpiece to end Act I and other refinements – so even if you saw the show on Broadway, there’s something new coming to town.
Heading the Plastics on this tour is San Diego-native Mariah Rose Faith, who plays queen bee Regina George. Mariah spoke with Basil Considine about her journey from screen to the stage, and the accidental fisticuffs of being a mean girl on tour.
Where am I catching you?
We’re in Buffalo, NY!
Buffalo is one of those places where the time of year makes a huge difference in your visit. How are you liking it?
I really like Buffalo. It’s been a lot of fun, we’ve eaten a lot of really good food (wings have been happening in the cast) – and the weather in September was great for opening week.
This being a brand new tour, have you gotten to see much of the city?
When we were here originally at the beginning doing tech, no – we couldn’t get out very much. This last weekend, however, we got to go out and see Niagara Falls with the cast. Our tech was scheduled for a little over a week, but we actually kicked butt and knocked out some stuff early, and did full runthroughs before tech and the invited dress rehearsal. We have some changes from the Broadway show, but it ended up being a fast and easy process, which was nice.
Since you have a custom-built new tour set and a new cast, have there been any hitches?
Everything is new. When I was in a quick change during one of our last tech runthroughs, I accidentally punched my costumer in the face. Thank God, he was okay, but we looked at each other and I said, “I owe you a drink sometime soon”. That’s never happened before (and hopefully won’t happen again).
I think we’ve now established a good show backstage with all the running around, the quick changes, et cetera. I have quite a few quick changes – Act I for me goes from “Someone gets hurt” into a race until the end of the act. It’s just quick change after quick change, including one big shocker for the audience. (You’ll have to come see the show to see what it is.)
Since people usually pack light for tours, who has more clothes right now – your character or you?
Honestly, on tour my character has more jackets than I do. However, I think Regina and I both like to shop, so not bringing a lot has been a good excuse to do that.
Where is home base for you when you’re not on tour?
Home base for me is Los Angeles at the moment, but most of my family is from San Diego. I’m from a small time named Valley Center and went to Valley Center High School and Escondido Charter. I did a lot of theatre, but not at school – that was through various community theatres and regional things. I did a lot of that when I was very little and then it found me again when I was 16 years old.
What was your path from school to the current stage?
I started at Santa Monica College and the plan was to transfer to USC for film school, because I wanted to do film. I still want to do film directing and screenwriting, but right now theatre is a big part of my life.
How did you get derailed?
I was doing a lot of theatre while I was at the LA Film School, and I ended up having to do some online courses because I was doing two shows at once. Then my parents invited me to San Diego to see Wicked on tour (I’ve seen it 3 times), and I just had an emotional experience where I thought, “I should really give theatre a chance.” And now I play Regina George in the Mean Girls tour.
Show tickets to lure you home? That beats “Honey, if you come home, you can do laundry without needing to get quarters…”
It was a kind of a family thing. I’d seen the first national tour of Wicked when I was really little, then my mom and brother and I saw it 5 years ago, but my father still hadn’t seen it – so we made it a family thing to finally all see it. But my parents do give me quarters every so often because they’re the best parents.
Will your family get to see this show on the road?
My dad made it out to Buffalo this last weekend for the opening and came to the opening night party with me, and my mom is coming out to the October 3rd show in Minneapolis, which is the Mean Girls show. Then my brother will come out to catch the show in Philly, and we’ll do Thanksgiving out there.
Is this your first national tour?
It is! My first tour.
What was the audition process like?
Long but meaningful. I was in the Regina casting pool since January of this year, and found out that I got cast to play Regina on tour back in May. It was quite a journey, but it was very fun – I’d fly out from LA to New York, which was crazy but good company.
How did that process start?
I had a YouTube video of myself singing “World Burn” from Act II on YouTube, and Tina and Jeff Richmond (the composer) found my cover on YouTube, and sent it over to Telsey + Company (which was doing casting) and said, “You need to get a self-tape from this girl” – and so I sent one in with three scenes. I had one callback in LA, then the rest in NYC. I think I did 5 or 6 in total.
The Youtube video that brought Mariah Rose Faith to the attention of the Mean Girls writing team.
With that sort of response, what other sorts of videos are you planning on putting online?
Right now, I want to get situated with the tour first. Megan and I – she plays Gretchen – have thought about doing some fun videos when on tour, though!
How long of a contract do you have to do that? Where is all your stuff?
I have a year-long contract…and most of my stuff is in my parents’ garage! I really packed light, and I’m quite proud of myself.
Any must-have travel gear, like a Netti pot or humidifier?
I do have a steamer, which is amazing for my voice. When I came down to Buffalo, I had a really bad cough and my allergies went through the roof, so I had to drink a lot of tea and steamed myself. I’m also really into essential oils and have a diffuser that my mother sent me (I use eucalyptus and peppermint a lot). I don’t have a Netti pot yet, but it works wonders and we’ll see when it enters my life on tour.
What was the rehearsal process like for this tour?
We had about three and a half weeks for rehearsals, which is pretty crazy because the show is crazy. I myself don’t dance a lot – I get lifted a lot, but other people are doing most of the dancing – but watching the other people and all that they learned is really impressive. I’m also the opposite of Regina in real life, so learning her and enjoying having all eyes on me was perfect.
What is a favorite moment in this show?
There’s a moment that I have in the end where a lot of stuff has happened to Regina and she has a moment of realization. That’s my favorite moment, because I kind of just get to be Mariah then in a big comedic scene to end the show with smiles. I also love “World Burn”, which is my big song in Act II – it’s so evil and good, and the tech is so impressive. It’s a good duo and I love a good villain.
When I was a wee little one, I dreamed of doing theatre professionally, but it was always one of those things that brought me joy and peace. I never realized it could be my actual career until recently. When I go onstage, I feel that this is where I’m supposed to be. It’s not a shocker, but it’s also surreal. I was also a very anxious child, so touring the country seemed too big to handle. Now it’s pure excitement every night when I see the lights and that audience.
How does this role compare to other roles that you’ve done in musical theatre?
I’ve done a lot of shows with quick changes, so I’m okay on that. Regina is a hard role, but rewarding in that way. I have to go onstage with the thought, “I’m going to party”, because if you don’t treat it that way, it just won’t work. For Regina, it’s like her birthday party is every day – everyone’s celebrating her – so if I go out onstage with that attitude, it reads really well with the audience.
It’s also great to have a show where the cast and company are so loving and exciting. It’s like a party before the show, during the show, and slightly after the show, and then we’re all ready to hibernate in our beds. I think we have a pretty good system so far.
How did they take it at the LA Film School when you said that you were leaving them?
I think they had a feeling it might happen – I think I maxed out on the number of online courses I could take in a row because of my theatre commitments. So they took it pretty well and they’re wonderful; I will do film again.
You mentioned that you were specifically interested in writing and directing film. Is that interest exclusive of doing this for the stage?
While I was growing up, my interest in writing and directing was more for film. Now that theatre has become such a big part of my life, though, I could see myself writing for the stage. Directing on stage is very different from directing with a camera, but maybe that will come with time. Right now, I’m along for the ride, and I will eagerly run right through whatever doors present to me.
Have you been to many places that the tour is hitting? Did you know any of the other cast members before you teamed up for the tour?
I haven’t been to a lot of the places that this tour is going to, so I’m really excited to travel the country and see the East Coast and all the states in the middle of country that I’ve never been to!
A lot of us knew “of” each other, but didn’t “know” each other, except for MK (Mary Kate Morrissey) and Megan Masako Haley, who were in Wicked on tour. I myself didn’t know anyone before – I think I’m the only LA girl who came in directly from the other side of the country from auditions.
Mean Girls opens October 1 at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis and runs through October 13.