Back To School: WAC hosts holiday helping of hilarity

Back To School: WAC hosts holiday helping of hilarity

Get in loser. We’re going to the Walton Arts Center.

If it’s like you have ESPN or something; if you’re not like a regular mom, you’re a cool mom; if you’ve ever been personally victimized by Regina George; and if you know that on Wednesdays we wear pink, I’ve got to think that you’ve already purchased your ticket to the new “Mean Girls” Broadway musical, making its Arkansas premiere Dec. 14-19 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville.

If all of these references went completely over your head, you’ve got the chance to be introduced to one of the most quotable comedies of the mid-2000s for the first time. And that is so fetch.

“Saturday Night Live” heavyweight, “30 Rock” creator/writer and all-around comedic genius Tina Fey wrote the 2004 film starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams that would go on to become a cult classic comedy and, now, a Broadway musical.

Both movie and show are based on the book “Queen Bees and Wannabees” by Rosalind Wiseman, and the latter sees Fey back in the writer’s seat for the transition to the stage. The award-winning creative team is rounded out by composer Jeff Richmond (“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), lyricist Nell Benjamin (“Legally Blonde”) and director Casey Nicholaw (“The Book of Mormon”).

“You will hear a lot of your favorite quotes,” promises Megan Masako Haley, who stars as Gretchen Wieners. “Our creative team did a really good job, Tina Fey did a really good job of setting up a lot of the jokes that you’ll recognize but then kind of switching out punch lines that are still surprising, but funny in the exact same way that you’re hoping for when you see ‘Mean Girls.’”

Haley’s character Gretchen is part of a group of girls known as “the Plastics” — beyond popular, these three are high school social royalty. And they’ve decided our heroine, Cady Heron, can sit with them for the rest of the week. Cady has just moved to the United States from Africa where her parents worked, and she is naïve to the savage jungle high school really is — and how to safely navigate the social food chain.

“The story is about integrity versus conformity, being true to yourself,” offers Jennifer Ross, WAC director of programming. “It does take you back to high school and puts you smack dab in the middle of all those cliques and weird things — all of that stuff that you wish wouldn’t happen anymore in your life, that all of a sudden [sometimes] you feel like you’re right back in high school.”

And it is, quite simply, a great night in the theater, Vice President of Programming and Executive Producer Scott Galbraith adds. “It is really well-staged. It is so energetic. It moves beautifully. So even traditional musical theatergoers who appreciate that style, they will love the storytelling, contemporary music, phenomenal choreography.”

For Haley, who guesses she’s seen the film upwards of 50 times, the story is a personal favorite. Haley originated the role of Gretchen in the touring version of the musical, and she spent several years prior to its 2018 debut auditioning for the cast. But her roots performing “Mean Girls” go even deeper than that.

“I actually, in college, as like a college project, made my own ‘Mean Girls’ musical,” she reveals. “It was for a dance class, where we had to adapt an existing work with music and choreograph an opening number. I did ‘Mean Girls’ … but I just used songs from the movie, so I had ‘Milkshake’ in it, I had ‘Dancing With Myself’ in it. It was really fun.

“I never told Tina so, maybe one of these days I’ll tell her that I did an unofficial ‘Mean Girls’ opener,” Haley concludes with a laugh.

“I love this character,” she says, turning back to Gretchen. “I feel like there’s not a person out there who hasn’t been a little Gretchen-y in their lives. She’s in the mean girl clique, but she also is horribly anxious and stressed out and trying to project something that she isn’t in a way that is sometimes mean but always funny. And I think there’s a heart in there that people know she’s not a bad person, but she’s just misguided — in a way that I think we all have been at some point in our lives.”

It’s that relatability that Haley, Ross and Galbraith all earnestly point to as proof that the show isn’t just a “chick flick.”

“Let me just tell you, my brother and dad love the show. My brother loves the movie; we all grew up on it,” Haley demonstrates. “And I think it’s a universal message of like, boy, girl, somewhere in between — everyone is trying to figure out who they are in whatever context. … We’re all trying to fit in, trying to toe the line of being yourself, but then also pleasing the people around you. And so I think it’s really for everyone. Take your girlfriends but also, like, grab your dad.”



‘Mean Girls’

WHEN — 8 p.m. Dec. 17; 2 & 8 p.m. Dec. 18; 2 p.m. Dec. 19

WHERE — Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St. in Fayetteville

COST — $41-$125

INFO — 443-5600,;

FYI — Masks are required inside the venue for all patrons.

Categories: Theater