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‘Mean Girls’ Music Composer Jeff Richmond Talks Upcoming Movie Adaptation, Collaborating With Wife Tina Fey

this January Mean girlsnational tour opened in Los Angeles, bringing the cult classic teen comedy to life on the Pantages stage.

At the show’s premiere in LA, the audience was decked out in pink outfits and Mean girls merch, while guests as producer and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels was also in attendance. Based on the original screenplay and book by Emmy award winner Tina Fey, Mean girls follows the same story of a new kid in town Cady Heron, as she navigates the vicious world of the high school suburbs – a place led by the ruthless plastics and their queen bee Regina George.

Before the last weekend of the show at the Pantages, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with the musical’s composer, Jeff Richmond, along with current cast members, to discuss the musical’s upcoming film adaptation, Richmond’s working relationship with his wife Fey, and how the show is breaking barriers in Broadway diversity.

For Richmond, the journey to get Mean girls on a Broadway stage began acquiring the rights.

“Tina and I had always talked about trying a musical for years,” Richmond says of his wife and creative collaborator Fey. “[Mean Girls] it seemed like people were interested and asking about it, asking us if we were ever interested in doing a musical. Since we’re so close to Lorne and he’s the one who should give us the rights to it, we just said, ‘Let’s just shoot this.’ And thank God we can get the rights to the movie Tina wrote.

And so with the stage adaptation of Mean girls, the Emmy award-winning TV composer found his way back to his musical theater roots. Throughout his career, Richmond composed for shows such as 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Saturday Night Live and Girls5Eva. Prior to that, he began majoring in musical theater in college, where he wrote several musicals and score compositions.

Casey Nicholaw, Tina Fey, Jeff-Richmond, Nell Benjamin

Jennie Anderson

After debuting in 2017 and closing the Broadway pandemic in 2020, Mean girls is back in action for its US tour, just in time for the continued development of the musical’s film adaptation. “I trust everyone we’ve brought in and the production company, they’re really taking care of it,” Richmond says of his current involvement with the Broadway show and tour. “We have such good management on the road and people are taking care of it. At the moment, everyday life is more about the film adaptation we are working on.”

In 2020, it was announced that Lorne Michaels and Paramount Pictures were planning to adapt the musical version of the story into a film. Michaels will return to produce, along with Fey who will pen the adaptation’s script. Samantha Jayne and Arturo Perez Jr. will direct, and Richmond and lyricist Nell Benjamin will also return to work on the film’s music. It was also recently announced that Angourie Rice, Auli’i Cravalho, Jaquel Spivey and Reneé Rapp will star.

“We’re super involved in that,” says Richmond. ‘What we’re trying to do [with the movie] is taking the score that sounds like a Broadway score – in a good way – and [give] the film a fresher palette. To make it sound more like stuff you want to listen to on Spotify, as opposed to sitting in the eighth row in the middle of a Broadway theater or the Pantages. It makes it kind of a fresher, younger take on the whole thing. We reinvented the music for the movie, so it’s really fun.

Nadina Hassan, who plays Regina, adds to the tour: “We are one of the few girls who get to play these roles professionally and at this level, and that is such a blessing. Because now, when the movie comes out, what we’ve done will also be shared with so many other people who may not have been able to come see us on tour or weren’t able to join the Broadway cast. I always feel so lucky to just be a part of this legacy.

Having worked together for the past three decades, Richmond and Fey have mastered the art of working together, not to mention their most important partnership: their family. “Don’t forget our children,” he laughs. “We worked together on our kids and our dogs.” As for collaborating on the musical, Richmond says it “couldn’t be better”.

“We know when to avoid each other when working together,” adds the composer. Like who takes this role? Who does that? Who needs to push harder to get the script done for this? We’re just around each other all the time. Always the same office. She’s a hilariously fun person to hang out with.”

Mean Girls stage

Mean girls

Jennie Anderson

The stage adaptation also made significant strides in terms of diverse representation by casting people of color in each of the lead roles.

“I saw the musical when it opened on Broadway,” recalls Jasmine Rogers, who plays Gretchen. “I saw almost all of the original cast and I was lucky enough to see Ashley De La Rosa, who is Afro-Latina, play Regina that night. I need to see her and [Ashley Park who played Gretchen]and that was really cool.

With three women of color, the Plastics play on the current Mean girls tour, Hassan emphasizes the importance of breaking down barriers on Broadway. “When I was growing up and going to college while the show was off, you didn’t see so many people of color in those lead roles,” she explains. “So to play Regina now is really cool, and it’s something I never expected. All three of us broke through different barriers in these roles, which is pretty amazing.

From movie to musical to movie musical, Mean girls has become a teen cult classic, with quotes like “So fetch!” and “You Can’t Sit With Us,” firmly established as a pop culture fixture of the early 2000s. Nearly 20 years after the original film’s release, audiences are still finding their way back to it.

“Tina talks about that all the time,” Richmond says of the show’s impact on generations. “It has been a new one Mean girls for every generation that comes back. You let them all go back to the original movie, but then suddenly there’s a different kind of version and now a movie.”

“I think part of it is that Tina Fey is hilarious,” adds Morgan Ashley Bryant, who plays Karen on the show. “She wrote some super iconic lines that I think will probably stand the test of time. But I also think the core values ​​of the story are to get rid of all the extra junk and just support each other as women, which is why I think so many women and young girls resonate with the story.

The flight from Los Angeles Mean girls will end this weekend on Sunday, January 29. Immediately following, the tour heads to San Francisco from January 31 to February 26, followed by a weeklong stay in San Diego and a final California stop at Costa Mesa from March 7 to March 19. Tickets for upcoming shows can be purchased online.

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