Mean Girls (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

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Inside the Album

Mean Girls (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

S1, Ep. 3

“It’s as intimidating as it is liberating.”

From the origins of the stage production, to the “unique challenges” presented by cast recording albums, to what the artists thought of the finished product, you’ll find no deeper look into the recent release of the Broadway show’s celebrated music.

Interviews: Jeff Richmond (Composer), Mary-Mitchell Campbell (Musical Director), John Clancy (Orchestrator), Barrett Wilbert Weed (Performer, Janis Sarkisian), Ashley Park (Performer, Gretchen Wieners), and Craig Rosen (Atlantic Records Executive Vice President, A&R Operations).

Episode Transcript

Jesse Cannon: Hi, my name is Jesse Cannon and I’ve devoted my life to trying to go deep and figure out what goes into making great records. I’ve produced over a thousand records, written two books and recorded hundreds of podcasts pursuing the hidden secrets of how great music gets to the world’s ears. Now I’m proud to present to you Atlantic Records Inside the Album Podcast, where we get to go deeper on how some of Atlantic’s artists have made the amazing albums in their catalog. We will hear firsthand from the artist and the team behind them that helped craft these amazing records and get to know the little secrets that go into making an amazing album. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the original cast recording for the hit Broadway Play, “Mean Girls.”

In 2004, when the movie “Mean Girls” was released, the sentiment among a lot of people was, “Not another teen movie,” but anyone who thought that and gave the movie a chance was won over when they witnessed a societal commentary that 14 years later continues to still shape the metaphors we use to talk about how the people around us behave. Writer Tina Fey of SNL and “30 Rock” fame fused Rosalind Wiseman’s 2002 non-fiction self-help book, “Queen Bees and Wannabes”, into a non-stop laugh comedy complete with archetypes we all recognize from high school and Amy Poehler playing possibly the cringe-iest mother to ever grace the screen. The film became an instant success at the box office. It revived the genre from a laughing stock that annoyed the public to a film that both adults and teens love.

I will admit that as someone who was in their 20s when the film came out, I have seen it more times that I’m comfortable saying out loud in public. The film was staged shockingly relevant as nearly everywhere you look on social media its classic lines are used in memes to express the sentiments of modern life. I mean, even President Obama once turned it into a meme. While a sequel of the film was once released, it wasn’t with the masterful hand of Fey at the helm but that changed when “30 Rock” wound down and she turned to her husband, Jeff Richmond, to create a sequel but this time it was a musical that re-imagines pop points for a new generation, all while adapting the narrative into hilarious and insightful musical numbers.

In the spring of 2018, Atlantic released a cast recording of the Broadway play and I got to sit down with a bunch of the people behind it to find out how this all happened. I’m going to let Jeff Richmond tell the story from here.

Jeff Richmond: You know, Tina and I had been working on “30 Rock” for years and years and as we were kind of rounding the corner of when this was coming to its end in this last season, we realized, “Oh, we’re going to have some time and we’re at a point now where we can like try to step back and say, ‘What do you really want to do? What do you want to do for the next chunk of time?'” Even though there were some other television commitments coming up around the corner, what we really thought would be the most fun and challenging and rewarding was we wanted to write a musical. We thought about it, what will be some source material, we had recently seen “The Book of Mormon” and it was such a hit and it was so hilarious.

In fact, we both felt that is awesome because you can actually get away with doing something as big and funny as “Book of Mormon” on Broadway, coming from comedy backgrounds and musical theater backgrounds so we thought that this is great. This seems like a world we want to step into. When we decided to look at musicals and one of the first places we had thought about was “Mean Girls” because Tina had written the movie 10 years before and it’s such a cultural thing. We decided to start examining that to see if that could be something, seemed like it could, as they say, sing, and (B) if it’s something that we could actually get the right for.

We thought we probably could get the rights, but you never know about those things ’cause somebody else owns them other than you, even though Tina had written it. We probably just kind of continued down that road, we went through a series of things. We got Lorne Michaels on board, who was the original producer of the movie and he with Brad Gray, who was running the studio at the time, said that they trusted us enough to begin working on it and so we kind of jumped in on it.

It’s interesting because one of the hardest things to do when writing a musical, it appears to me and to this team, and we had a great team, because we had Tina. It was her first show but she is certainly a great comic script writer and then he brought in a lady by the name of Nell Benjamin who is they lyricist for the show as you know, and she was great and then she had already had one big hit on Broadway with “Legally Blonde” so we knew that she would come in with some knowledge.

Then at some point early on in the process, we were lucky enough to bring in Casey Nicholaw to come in as director. When you bring the director and he kind of becomes a little bit of a head writer and a little bit of an editor and a little bit of someone that helped shape the story. With all these brains working at it, you start to find a way to work together. You start to find out what parts of the story want to sing and where they should sing but trying to find out what is that song that you actually should want to like sit down and write is tricky and is a challenge ’cause there’s not that much real estate for songs, even though it’s a musical. I find that that’s an interesting part of it is that you’re telling the story but there’s only room for so many songs and so not everything that seems like it is a song is going to work as a song.

Jesse Cannon: Jeff had mentioned the influence of “Book of Mormon.” I wanted to see if there was anything else that really shaped this.

Jeff Richmond: I think that one was really influential at the time. I mean, because it was such a big broad hit and it was also brought to the stage by television people and people who were comedy writers with Matt and Trey coming into the fold for that. We were looking to them as well, like, “Oh, TV people can actually come in and do this kind of thing and write a musical and get it on Broadway.” That was one of the reasons there. There are tons of musicals that Tina and I both love and would look to for influences other than that but as far as just like the impedance of going, at that particular moment in time going, “Oh, this feels like a big fun thing and we can do it.” You know, and I was thinking about there also are a lot of examples of television comedy writers that have found their way historically into writing Broadway shows.

As you go back through it, you realize, Simon was a television writer and he ended up writing not just a lot of plays on Broadway and not a lot of comedies, but he wrote the book Broadway Shows as well, like “Sweet Charity.” Of course, Mel Brooks had his start writing basically in the same building, you know at “30 Rock” and when they were doing “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar, forever go, these people would find their way into writing Broadway musicals. Another one’s Larry Gelbart a great comedy writer from television and so it was kind of fun thinking, “Oh, there’s all this great history in comedy writers and people who have worked in comedy making their way into the Broadway Musical format.”

Jesse Cannon: Records rarely take more than a year to make, so I was shocked when Jeff told me how long this took to develop.

Jeff Richmond: Let’s see, we began writing it right after “30 Rock.” We had Nell come in for it and so that was five, almost exactly five years. Five years is very… it sounds like a long time but when it comes to like actually writing the show from scratch and getting it out on the road and getting everyone and getting it into a Broadway house, if you’re lucky enough to get into Broadway house, that’s a very short window. Sometimes they take much longer than that. When Tina and I first started writing it and we heard that, “Oh, it takes six or seven years,” we were like, “We’ll get this done. We’ll write it this summer and six months; we’ll have this up and running. It’ll be a thing.” We were so wrong. It’s just a whole other beast that doesn’t work anything like that. All in all, the process is just so collaborative and so interesting, other than when you’re working in other forms in television.

When you’re working in TV, you are on this different kind of schedule. You have somebody write something one day and that night you are writing it into a piece of music or you’re writing it into a script and you’re recording it the next day and it’s going to go on the air or be filmed in two days from now. This process fits such a long ramp to get to where you’re going in the end because of the nature of the beast. You’re going to go out of town. This thing takes a while, you’re doing labs, you’re writing it in front of people and you’re writing it with people that it becomes such a collaborative endeavor. Not like lost in an office by yourself, writing something that’s kind of been assigned to you, but actually in a room writing songs and music, putting them in front of an audience, seeing how that audience responds to it, immediately going back, writing a few more days or a few more weeks. Whatever it takes until it’s ready to put in front of an audience again and then that continued process which goes on for like years.

Jesse Cannon: This is Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the musical director on how she got involved.

Mary-Mitchell Campbell: I first got involved in the show because I was a colleague of our director, Casey Nicholaw, who’s done two other Broadway shows together and Broadway shows is what I typically work on. We worked on a show called “Tuck Everlasting” and then we worked on an upcoming show called “The Prom,” which is actually coming to Broadway this fall, but we also used to live in the same building and we’ve also both done Broadway shows for a long time. We’ve known each other for a bit and he invited me in to meet with the writers – Tina, Jeff and Nell, to talk about essentially coming on board the project and then I ended up coming on board the project and so I first got involved by doing an early developmental lab of the show, when it was being written. Being in a room with actors and trying out material and sort of deciding how to tell the story through music.

Jesse Cannon: Now here’s Craig Rosen to talk about how Atlantic got involved.

Craig Rosen: Well, I mean, as far as the behind the scenes creative team in making this record, it was an extremely collaborative process and what was really great about it was you have these people like Jeff Richmond and Tina Fey and Nell Benjamin and everyone who had put the show together for years who came to us and sort of trusted us with their baby to direct them towards the best way to capturing the music and creating a really great cast album.

Ultimately when it came time to recording, everybody really had a say. We even joked with each other as we were making decisions that if I had the same opinion as Nell, then I was on Team Nell. If Mary-Mitchell Campbell had the same opinion as Jeff, then she was on Team Jeff, but there never seemed to be, somehow we always came to either some kind of collaborative decision or whoever felt the most passionate about their perspective kind of won the day. I think it really contributed to really great decisions being made about how to record the album, which performances to choose, which direction to go with mixing. It was really just a really great team effort.

Jesse Cannon: While we’re talking about how everybody got involved in the show, I’d be remiss to not include this story from Barrett Wilbert Weed about how she got involved in the show playing Janis Sarkisian.

Barrett Weed: You do this very fun thing when you’re an actor which is you talk to other actors and you hear about shows or films or television that’s being made and then you hear about roles that you think that you’re right for. Then you harass your agents and your managers until you get an audition for said project. I had heard that Mean Girls was being adapted into a musical. I just kind of sometimes every once in a while you get a little light bulb that goes off in your head and you’re just kind of like, “That role is mine. Other people can have other things but that one is mine and I know I can make that special and turn it on its ear and do something different with it than what other people would do with it.”

Basically, I just harassed my reps until I got an audition for the show and then I auditioned, I think four different times in a row. Grey Henson, who plays Damian, and I, we’ve known each other for a few years. We, prior to this job and like prior to becoming friends in this extremely intimate way that we are now, we just had a lot of friends in common and had hung out a lot and always really enjoyed each other’s company but I immediately thought of him for this part and he immediately thought of me.

We kind of like put our heads together and just decided that we were going to package ourselves as a package deal. Yeah, so we auditioned three or four times separately and then we had an audition together. He had found out, he’s a huge die-hard Tina Fey fan in the writing sense. Obviously, she is [a] genius writer. I am more of a die-hard Tina Fey personal fan, like from her book and every interview she’s ever given. I just think she’s the best. He found out, he was like, “Tina really likes to cast people who are more or less the characters, so we’re going to walk into the room and we’re going to hold hands and we’re going to tell them that we’re friends.” I was like, “Okay,” and he was like, “Just trust me,” and I was like, “All right.” He just kind of grabbed my hand and walked into the room and he just started laughing hysterically at a joke that I had not made which made me laugh and then it just kind of like went around and around.

Casey had already worked with Grey and he was like, “Do you guys know each other?” and he’s like, “Oh, yeah, we’ve been friends for years.” The rest is kind of history, but also it wasn’t exactly a lie, ’cause I have felt very, very close to Grey since the day I met him in passing and since the day we started hanging out by ourselves. That’s just kind of, sometimes you have that kind of click with people who you’re dating or people who you wind up married to and sometimes it’s a friend version of that and I feel that with him very strongly.

Jesse Cannon: I then turned to Jeff and asked him what were the thoughts that helped shape the show.

Jeff Richmond: I think the theme that we found important with it that we really wanted to do well with it was take care of the heart of the actual story of “Mean Girls.” ‘Cause so many people cared about it and said it was a very important film for a lot of people growing up and they’d see themselves in the movie and they would look towards the movie and see themselves. That way, it became very important to a lot of people, so we knew there was a lot of people who had a lot of feelings about it and it was important, so we wanted to take care of it in that regard.

We wanted to be sure that as the movie does, we were taking care of like the heart and messaging of the film in and of itself and that we weren’t just doing a piece of camp. ‘Cause when you start to think about the title and the show and what it could be and the way that many things in Broadway, you know like sometimes, not many things, but very often people take a subject matter and it’ll turn into a piece of camp and something that doesn’t feel true or sincere. We wanted to be sure that we weren’t going down that road at all and that the laughs that we were going to generate out of the show were going to be from an honest place and that the music was going to come from an honest place as well.

Jesse Cannon: I then asked him to elaborate on the musical thoughts and how it would shape this cast recording.

Jeff Richmond: Yeah, you know, we approached writing this, as I was saying earlier, we wanted to really feel like everything was coming from an honest place and that was also important to us in the styles of music that we chose for each character to sing from. Like we came in knowing that I didn’t want to write a show where the whole score was like pop music just because the show was populated with girls in high school who would be listening to pop music of the day for a couple of reasons.

It didn’t feel very honest and it also feels like, well, that’s something that could be dated rather quickly and we were looking for something that felt like it could play in many levels and many age groups. What we decided to do was look at a high school and realizing that it’s a show about cliques and groups and that each clique and within each group, they would sound a little bit different from each other and that was the most honest way for people to sing.

For example, when we got to Damian who is this flamboyantly gay, kind of frumpy high school kid, very enjoyable, we knew that his background, his voice would sound it’s most honest when he was singing like actual old fashioned Broadway show tunes. All his stuff, like “Where Do You Belong” sounds like a splashy 1950s Broadway number. Then also when he comes in the second act, he sings a song called “Stop,” it’s very much like an old Rodgers and Hart or Gershwin tap number. It felt like they were the right way to hear from him.

Then with Janis, who’s kind of the anarchist of the show, and kind of the voice of tomorrow and the voice of warning and “Don’t do this,” she felt like she would be absolutely singing from a place of rock and roll. She was an anarchist, she’s some kind of alternative rock, something with a darker edge. some kind of alternative rock, something with a darker edge. We went down that path with her. I think most of her songs, like “Apex Predator,” have real like fall on the floor, kind of a real rock groove by orchestrator John Clancy.

When we were first conceptualizing what the orchestra was going to sound like, there were certain rules about how many players there are for each theater based on theater size. We wanted to push for 14 players, pretty big for a pit orchestra but one of the things that we both pushed for was we wanted two guitars. Most pits don’t have two guitars, even if they have one, but one or two guitars we could really distinguish and really color that rock and roll stuff. We were leaning into that kind of a palette and double percussion and three keyboards.

The other thing, we knew that for these other songs that were like Broadway stuff, we wanted to be able to have them sound pretty authentic, so we wanted to be sure that we were covered in woodwinds and brass and strings. We pushed to be sure to have at least brass players and two woodwind players still playing on a bunch of different horns and two string players. I just kind of lined the whole bit, bunch of stuff together there and palette of the show, but that’s what we were going for. That’s why we wanted to have the authenticity of what would sound like your typical pit orchestra in Broadway that you might hear from any of these older shows, yet still have enough tools in that pit to sound like you will really be able to pull off some really good, gritty rock and roll.

Jesse Cannon: You just heard Jeff talk about John Clancy who’s the orchestrator of the show who also came from “Tuck Everlasting.” I wanted to ask him what is an orchestrator, since I had never even heard of that position before.

John Clancy: It varies a little bit on each show because composers all different but generally composers write on piano or guitar. They also they write vocals, vocal melodies and stuff. Sometimes they do their own vocal arranging, sometimes someone else does the vocal arranging in terms of harmonies and backup vocals. Then the orchestrator takes that sketch of the piano or guitar and I have to write everybody’s part. I have to envision the sound of the show, per song, per show, whatever, and I have to write everybody’s part.

That is a mixture of using what’s, as much as I can of what the composer provides me with and then composing my own counter melodies and anything I need to do to make the songs work, to life the song up. Sometimes you get a very detailed piano part from a composer and sometimes you just get chord symbols, you know what I mean? It depends, that’s why I say it varies. It depends on the composer and then you know, you have meetings with the composer to talk about sound palette and instrumentation and everything. It sort of really doesn’t unfold until I actually start putting notes on the page and then the whole thing unfolds and you’re like, “Well, this went a whole place I didn’t even know I was going to go.” You can’t really predict where they’re going to go. “Mean Girls” was tricky because it’s a comedy, there is no sound world for the whole show. It can be anything you want it to be at any time.

Well, so I try to pick instrumentation that is extremely diverse, I mean, malleable so that let’s say like I have two reed players. They each play like four or five instruments, so now I can cover classical stuff, I can cover any kind of big band music or R&B, rock and roll, horn section stuff, because I have them switching off between saxophone, the flute, clarinet, English horn, oboe, bass clarinet, very saxophone. I’ll have all those instruments with two guys. The same thing, I use trumpet, Flugelhorn. This one guy, a trombone, player and those instruments they can be classical, they can be rock, they can be jazz, they can be a lot of things. We try to choose my instruments well because I know what’s in front of me is at least going to be different. Every song’s going to be its own world. That’s sort of how we start and the same thing with the percussion palette.

We also used electronics and I did some programming, drum programming, synth programming like stuff before I even started, because I knew some of the songs that really needed some modern, were going to have to be supplemented with some tracks, you know what I’m saying?

Jesse Cannon: I then asked him if he could expand upon the musical direction notes he got from the team.

John Clancy: I just think that what we’re going for is that at any moment when Jeff wrote a tune, we just decided we wanted to go a 100 percent in the direction of the tune. He wrote a song that’s like a big James Bond, Adele rock symphony ballad and so we went full on with that sound for that one song. Then he also wrote old timey musical theater big band stuff and Dixieland stuff and went a 100 percent in that direction. We didn’t want any of it to sound like quasi, you know what I mean? I mean that’s always what I’m after, man, that’s the hardest thing in musicals is so much of it can sound quasi, especially rock music.

You can tell when it’s like theater version of rock music and when it’s really rock music, you know what I mean? He was like, “Totally, let’s go there,” so the rock music in the show is the real shit, you know. The moments that are big band, we went, I mean, I’m just influenced by Sinatra, Glen Miller, Ellington, Count Basie, I mean all kinds of stuff, that’s where I come from but not to say there’s anything wrong with musical theater stuff that does that, but I just know the other stuff more and so that’s where I came from with those songs.

I grew up on rock music, so that’s sort of the easy part for me when there’s rock music. I went to school for classical music, so and it’s all in there in Mean Girls. It’s what was difficult is most of the underscore is orchestral and classical in its background, even though it’s a big pop commercial show, it’s really all over the place, musically so. I then had Mary-Mitchell Campbell elaborate a little bit on the musical direction and how they shaped the sound for each character.

Mary-Mitchell Campbell: I think, you know, so Jeff is an amazing composer and he definitely thinks from a very directorial and an actor based, drama based perspective, so a lot of what we were doing was doing themes that attach to each character. We have sort of a James Bondy type theme that attaches to Regina George, that we kind of kept alive through the show. There were a few other things like that, styles of music that we wanted to sort of keep attached to different characters. Then looking at, obviously, flow of the entire show, how things go together as far as like how they line up, ’cause a lot of times things will work really well if you keep them on their own but they won’t work so well with what comes before or after it. You have to keep adjusting to make sure that there’s enough of an energy shift throughout the entire show that you’re taking people on a ride, that goes along in correlation with the story you’re telling.

It’s a relatively involved process and it’s a lot of trial and error, that you kind of almost can’t tell until you get it on people in a room and can see, watch it unfold. I mean I think we knew we wanted to keep this as relevant to today as we possibly could. I think that was a big goal for everyone on the team and I think, just the understanding of how everything has stayed the same in many ways as far as like high school social structures are concerned, how there’s always cliques.

There’s always groups that you belong to or you don’t belong to that you wanted to but the ways that now social media plays into all of that, which has actually advanced quite a bit since the movie happened, and finding ways to make this feel relevant to people that are going through high school right now, as well as those of us that went through high school quite a bit ago. Keeping it relevant to all of us so that it’s a universal story around trying to fit in and trying to find your place in that social system, has been I think a high priority for all of us, which has been really fun to do. Tina really went out of her way to talk to young people and even have some young people come sort of give feedback to her about sort of what felt real to them or what felt not as real to them. I think we’ve done a pretty decent job of staying true to that.

Jesse Cannon: We talked a lot about the ideas that shaped the Broadway musical compared to the movie, but what’s also interesting is the characters changed a lot. Here’s Ashley Park who plays Gretchen Wieners talking about how her character changed.

Ashley Park: For example, one of the lines in the movie, when she snapped, she has her breakdown, is about, “You’re just as great as Caesar, why don’t we just stab Caesar?” and I think this Gretchen is not about revenge or about being just as good as. She’s very, very okay with being beta and never being the alpha and I think that the core of this character is that she just wants to be a good friend, whatever that means.

She wants to be the best friend that there could be and that is what gets her into trouble, because there are some people that it will never be reciprocated and the saddest thing for me and I think that comes through in the lyrics, especially at the reprise, it’s so funny ’cause Gretchen in her anxiety and in her neurotic nature, she has moments of clarity that often come through the songs and in the lyrics in the song, but then immediately she snaps back into her same patterns. I kind of love, there isn’t the nice, happy bow at the end, like, “Oh, Gretchen gets a guy or Gretchen becomes a leader,” or anything like that. It’s like really we see the every woman. That’s what makes her so relatable, I think. I’ve had people, truly every single age, every single color, every single sex, come up and say, “Wow, I really, really connected with that song.” I think that is like, that’s what we want in musicals. We want something that makes people relate to characters that they wouldn’t necessarily think that they would relate to.

There’s been one line that has stayed the same throughout every iteration that I’ve been a part of, in terms of our out of town and everything. It’s the line right before the song that says, “Sometimes I feel like an iPhone without a case. I know I’m worth a lot and I have a lot of good functions but at any time I could just shatter,” and it leads right into the song and just that, as soon as I read that line and then as soon as I heard the song and the lyrics from the song, I knew exactly right away who Gretchen was and I really connected with her on a very, very deep level.

I think that, she was much, she was maybe more manipulative in the earlier iterations but as I got to know her and as I got to know, put myself in her position with her struggles with girls and other relationships and the friendships, she develops from this insecure girl who just wanted attention who is just very surface level insecure. The creative team and the writers like really collaborated with me in making her a very honest character and her flaws and her insecurities in just wanting to fit in and that the spine of that came from the song, “What’s wrong with me?” and they even, like now there’s a reprise of it in Act Two that is, really brings parts of the show around in full circle and the character now dances a lot, too, which is always fun.

Jesse Cannon: Here’s Barrett to talk about how Janis evolved.

Barrett Weed: Right off the bat from when we started working on the show, it’s definitely been different from the movie in many respects, but also the same vibe, the same story, but it’s different. It’s updated for this generation of kids, which is actually same generation as me, just the younger half. One of the things that I noticed right off the bat when I got the script was that Janis did not end up with Kevin G the way that she does in the movie. That was in there from the beginning and so I just kind of decided on my own, well, then why don’t we let Janis not be straight and why don’t we let all of this bullying about her sexuality come from a real place, ’cause that makes it all the more important.

It’s hard enough to be ostracized as a kid for a made up rumor about something that you’re not but it’s harder still to be ostracized as a kid for something that you are, or something that you might be or something that you’re not really sure of or ready to label yourself as. That’s much harder. I kind of pushed really, really, really hard for that and I think I got my way as much as I was ever going to, ’cause as progressive as Broadway is, I think they are not, mainstream Broadway shows are not quite ready to have a teenage lesbian and a teenage gay guy as their two narrators for a story, but that’s, I think, Janice, the way that I have designed her and played her, she’s not straight and I think that’s the label that we’re giving her because she, you know, when someone tries to label you in an aggressive, traumatic way, the natural reaction, especially when you’re young and you want to push back is to just decide not to label yourself at all, no matter how uncomfortable that makes other people.

I think that’s what Janis has decided to do in this version. It’s funny when I’m talking about it in interviews, ’cause they’re like, “Well, is she gay, is she straight, is she bi?” and it’s like, “Well, that’s the thing, she doesn’t want to fit into someone else’s idea of what her sexuality is to make people comfortable. I think that’s been really funny to watch that make people in this industry very uncomfortable. We’re very comfortable with this kind of like loud ostentatious version of gay men in theater but we don’t really know what to do with ourselves when we encounter like a young women who is a little more sexually ambiguous. That makes people very uncomfortable. I didn’t grow up in an environment where that would make someone uncomfortable, so it’s been really interesting to watch people try to process that. Of course, the younger fans of the show have absolutely zero problem processing that. Our older audience members and our older members of this community have a very difficult time dealing with that.

Jesse Cannon: When doing these interviews, I started to realize, it wasn’t just the initial ideas that really shape the show. You know, musicals are so much different than other art forms. When a movie comes out, you don’t get to re-edit it again. Unless, you’re Kanye, you don’t make a new version of your album and keep putting it up on streaming services, but you’ll hear here that musicals often go through a little bit of a development period where they talk to the audience and really hone it in. Here’s Jeff to talk a little bit about those changes.

Jeff Richmond: When we were doing our show out of town, in Washington, DC, in the fall, we learned a lot of things. We learned that we needed to be more in Cady’s head. We kind of needed to know why she was doing what she was doing in order for us to be satisfied with the way the story was laying out. We felt like we were missing a few things in that regard. The other thing that the audience told us that they really wanted, was they wanted more Damian. They really wanted Damian to have a number and the second act didn’t have, so we decided when we came back to New York, we were sitting down and doing our fixes and our rewrites, we wanted to give Damian a number. What we decided, we wanted to make sure that he had another big splashy number, so that was like important to me and the choreographer and Tina and Nell, as well.

The other thing that Tina wanted to be sure that she got in was she wanted to get more points of view about women and the youth not being able to say no to things. That everything has an immediate response because that’s the way we deal with things now. We see something in our phones and we immediately respond to it, it immediately goes out into the world. There’s this thing now where people don’t know how to stop, they don’t know how to regulate that. They don’t know how to not Tweet. They don’t know how to Instagram every moment of their life.

We thought this was a good way to give a splashy number in the second act and still get that kind of point of view and which Tina thought was important. There’s this number called “Stop” and the word stop works at a couple of levels, ’cause it’s like “Stop, don’t do this, think before you do this,” but it also works in this level of stop, stop time of a tap number. So it all kind of came together to be this really fun, big, fat production number in the second act that kind of took this very new 2018 message but wrapped it in a very old fashioned musical style.

It’s very successful. People love it. It’s a big splashy number but tells a much newer message. There’s that. Another one would be, well the, I’ll go into Cady. We had an opening number in Washington, DC, and it was a song called “Wildlife.” And it was supposed to show us Cady Heron in Africa, you know, familiar with Mean Girls, she home schooled in Africa and then she left and she gets thrown into the suburb of Chicago because of her parents aren’t going to be working in Africa anymore. But we’re realizing is that we needed a song to help us really understand where she was coming from and to get in her head and so we rewrote the opening number that became more a number about knowing why she’s in the Savannah and Africa that she still has journey to do something more and still yearning to get to a place where she can have friends who have less than four legs, just human friends. She’s at a point in her teenage development where she would like to talk to a boy but there’s no boys there.

We wrote this song called “It Roars” that would function as an opening number to let us in on Cady’s actual feelings and desires, getting her from Africa and into the high school and wanting to fit in, then also giving us this big symbolic thing about, it roars, which works on the African level, works on the animal analogies that come in later in the show where she can look around and see, “Oh, these students are just behaving the same way as animals do in the jungle, that way I know how to find my way through this world.” Roar, it’s also the kind of the feeling you have when you’re teenager, girl or boy, and you cannot restrain these primal feelings in you anymore and you just want to scream, or you just want to yell, or you just want to kick down a wall. It’s always coming from a place of “It Roars” inside you. You try to sit, you try to kind of contain it, but you just can’t. That’s what we thought would help us and it did and immediately you felt for Cady right in the beginning of the show.

Jesse Cannon: Here’s Mary-Mitchell Campbell talking about these changes as well.

Mary-Mitchell Campbell: One thing that I think is interesting is that we went through, we re-wrote a lot of material between Washington, DC when we did the show there and when we brought the show to Broadway, and one of the big things that we re-wrote was the opening number. Both how we started the show and the song that started the show which is called “Mean” and sung by Janis and Damian is new for New York, also the song that we lead into called, “It Roars,” where we sort of meet Cady in Africa and then watch her make the decision for her to come to America.

That whole situation, everything about that is very different than what we did in DC and it’s interesting because a lot of what we did in New York was based on what we learned in DC, which was that we needed Cady to be more active in her decisions. We needed a clearer understanding of why she wanted to move to Chicago and go to a real high school and have friends, sort of what her desires were so we could better understand the whole story. That was a pretty major shift that happened that was exciting and a bit terrifying to do such a major change for the top of the show, ’cause it just starts your whole show so differently.

Then similarly, we did a very trite opening to Act Two, moved things again from things we’d learned in DC, which is why it’s so useful to take a show out of town and put it in front of an audience for several weeks. We realized how much everyone was responding to the character of Damian and we came up with this really great opening of Act Two called “Stop,” which is a big tap number, and no one knew that we were going to do a big tap number. None of the cast knew that we were going to do a big tap number. That was all very interesting to sort of be in rehearsal and go, “Hey, we’re going to do a big tap number,” and some people were like, “Yay,” and some people were like, “Oh, god,” and those that were like, “I don’t really tap as well as I think I probably need to,” or like, “Okay, I’m going to catch up really quickly.” That got very interesting but really fun and it became a really huge, fun number for the opening of Act Two.

We changed the opening of Act One, the opening of Act Two, and we changed the end of the show relatively extensively with a big number called, “I See Stars,” which is one of my favorite songs on the album actually. That was something we didn’t come up with that song until we were out of the rehearsal room and in tech. So pretty late in the game, we introduced that song to the cast and introduced it to show. You know, it’s a whole process, everyone has to stay very, very flexible during the making of a musical, ’cause everything keeps changing every hour.

We would print music out and we would instead of just dating it by date, we would usually have to timestamp it, ’cause it would depend on if we released it at, on a specific day, if we released it at 11AM or if we released it at 3PM, ’cause it would be like a different version. It really does change quite extensively throughout every few hours, just changing lot. The other thing is we really struggled with trying to get Regina’s big number, that was the number that was, we had the Bond thing going on but we have the song that she sings where she tells Cady that she’ll go talk to Aaron on her behalf because Cady has a crush on him. Then ultimately, she steals him back and the song in which she does that is called “Someone Gets Hurt,” and that was a very tricky one to solve and we had a really hard time. We did so many versions of it in DC and never really felt like we ever totally nailed it until we went back re-wrote it over the break between DC and New York.

It’s a completely different song but it has the same title, which I think is very interesting and the same sort of idea. It’s a different song, we sort of leaned more into her Bond theme, which I think is really fun. In any musical I would say, there’s always many, many moments like that. We had like a really fun, crazy number that had to do with the talent show scene, towards the end of Act One. It was really developed and really fun and we had like a lot of things going on with it but once we saw it in the scope of the entire show, it just felt like Act One was too long. It felt like we got to that point and it was really entertaining but it wasn’t necessary and so we sort of ended up having to cut those things back. There’s a lot of things like that, ’cause you’re looking at the piece as a whole and what the audience is going to be going through as a first time experience.

Jesse Cannon: Here’s Ashley Park talking about how her character evolved.

Ashley Park: Yeah, I think a big point of revision that we did a lot of was in “Revenge Party,” for my character especially, which is when she kind of has the breakdown and reveals the secrets that Regina has. We did so many iterations of that, like when I first came into it, I think that I was the one to reveal the secret to a different character and I stayed on the stage throughout it. There’s one where I literally just kept just spilling secrets like word vomit.

At first, Gretchen was really about word vomit and that she couldn’t control what she was saying. That started to feel a little bit caricature-y. It’s so funny, ’cause high schoolers are not dumb, they are either hyper aware or not aware at all and that is the truth that we found with that. With “Revenge Party,” I realized a big part of my creative process in this show, especially with Gretchen and every character is so important, very specific slice of the pie.

There are times in the process where I was like, “You know what, I think I should cut Gretchen’s [inaudible]. I don’t think I need to be in this scene. I should say less here,” and especially with someone like Tina writing, she has such an economy of language, she can say so much, volumes about a character in just one line. I just thought that we didn’t need to hit the nail over the head so much with Gretchen. Like that was a big part of it was like, not being selfish and a hog in terms of wanting to be in this, I need to say this, I need to be, I need to have the most lines or anything like that but was really being like, what is the most important parts of her? How are we going to create a through line with her?

It’s tricky when you have an iconic movie like this. For example, one of the most iconic lines from the movie is, “You can’t sit with us,” and people are just waiting for that. It’s funny in a show like this, ’cause you get kind of Rocky Horror Picture syndrome where people know that things are coming or they’re waiting for it and they start cheering, but sometimes, like a cheer after that, doesn’t really progress the story line. Then we played with, what if she doesn’t say, “You can’t sit with us,” and then that didn’t work. I said it and then now, with the version of it where she kind of backs off of saying it then she gets really scared which is very true to the character that we’ve created. Our Gretchen is a lot more, she acts, like she truly doubles as a bird when they turn into animals and so like I really based a lot of the character off of how a bird would act and how flitty and how just like living in the air of it all. Like thinking like animal really kind of helped.

Jesse Cannon: We’ve talked a lot about this musical itself and how it came to be, but what about when you actually have to make a cast recording. Here’s Craig Rosen to talk about how Atlantic sees making cast recordings.

Craig Rosen: I mean at Atlantic, we hadn’t done a cast album in over 10 years before we did the Hamilton Cast album. When we did that one, it brought up some unique challenges. First of all, there were 46 songs but also, there was this desire to not make the record the way cast albums are normally made which usually, you’re essentially recording live in the studio, everyone in the same room, at the same time. You do a couple of takes, you find the best performance.

It’s all done very fast because you can’t actually start recording the cast album until it premieres on Broadway, until it opens on Broadway, but then once it’s open on Broadway, you want the record to come out really fast. It’s set up so that you end up having to make these records in a very sped up, rushed way. What we tried to create was a way to sort of split the difference between how cast albums were traditionally made and how real pop or rock records are made, where different elements are recorded and then layered on top of each other.

Traditionally, if you’re making a cast album, the whole orchestra and the entire ensemble are in the studio recording the whole song from beginning to end. In a pop and rock recording environment, you’re recording the rhythm tracks, you’re doing the tar over dubs, you’re recording the background vocals, you’re recording the lead vocals. You’re recording the lead vocals over and over again to capture the best performance of every line of the song. We sort of developed this in between process, where rather than recording everyone at the same time, we recorded just the core band and then we recorded just the ensemble vocals and then we recorded just the lead vocals. Then we would over dub sort of key elements of the instrumentation that maybe needed particular attention. It gave us the ability to capture the best performances and also have a little bit more isolation to be able to piece all of the best performances together and mix it.

Jesse Cannon: Mary-Mitchell Campbell will explain how she saw this on her end.

Mary-Mitchell Campbell: I mean, from a recording standpoint, there’s like a level of you know what’s going to happen, you know what you’ve planned out. I think when you’re doing a musical version of a recording, you’re trying to capture all of the things orally that you see visually, which is a bit tricky to do because, obviously, you don’t have the added bonus of seeing what’s happening, but you want to make sure that it’s conveyed vocally, that everybody understands the sort of dramatic art to the songs because they’re written in that way.

It’s not just about vocal production, it’s also about storytelling, which is harder to capture without any other advantages except for what you’re listening to. That’s a slightly different approach. I mean, first of all, I have to say, I’ve done a lot of cast albums, and this is the first time I’ve ever gotten to Atlantic and it’s been an amazing experience, because they really know what they’re doing and they know what they want and they’re very clear about it and it’s a slightly different way of recording than a lot of albums get done. Because a lot of cast albums get done with everybody in the same room and very, very quickly. For example, you would bring everybody in the same room and you would have one, basically one big day and you’d run through everything two or three times and you hope you get it right and then you move on. I feel like Atlantic, the way that they structured this was slightly different.

We actually got more times we would get to work with just the band first and lay down the tracks of just the band and really focus on making sure we were really happy with the way the grooves were working. That it was translating and that the cuts we had picked worked well and the transitions worked well. ‘Cause you do make a couple of different concessions as far as like, there’s a couple of things where, like there’s one thing in “Stupid With Love,” is a track on the album where we started a whole step lower than we do in the show because we weren’t doing the visual thing that we do in the show. It didn’t make sense for us to repeat the same material musically in the same key. Even though it’s fine in the show, it doesn’t make sense on an album.

We like changed it, which just meant that we wanted to make sure that that worked plus the musicians were playing something they don’t normally play. There were a couple of places like that, that occurred that we wanted to, that we got the opportunity to really like play with and explore and make sure we were happy with before we had to really commit to it, because we had a little more time. You never have a lot of time. You never have enough time, but you always have like this was definitely a situation where we got a little more time that I would say we normally get. It was very beneficial for us. As far as the band was concerned, they all got to feel like they really had enough opportunities to walk into each other to really hear, to play with each other, and then we put vocals on top of it.

There are some songs in the show where you can’t do that, we all had to be in the same room at the same time, because there’s too much following of the actors to be able to know how to, I couldn’t possibly guess their timing well enough to put in an album, so we did a couple of things with them in the room. We did one big session where it was the orchestra and some singers and then most of the sessions were orchestra only or singers only.

Jesse Cannon: Now Jeff Richmond’s going to talk about the differences in instrumentation on the cast recording.

Jeff Richmond: We were very lucky. We had our full players. I think there are some edits here and there of maybe we didn’t include all the dance music. There’s quite a bit of dance on the show and it’s hard to pull off all the dance music on an album, just because of time restraints and 75 minutes when you’re getting down to CD size and all of that kind of stuff. There are some edits here and there, but in general the songs exist how they in the show. The same instrumentation all around, the same vocal palette, everything is there. The one instrument we did want to get in the pit and we couldn’t get in the pit because of pit size and because of like financial reasons is we wanted a French horn player, because French horn covered, it’s such an interesting instrument ’cause it can cover such a wide range of sound and palettes and tones.

It’s so great when it can blend in with brass players. It’s so great when the single French horn player can color the woodwinds in a certain way and strings. It’s also such a great, heroic, powerful, dark sound like when it just solos and can kind of blare into whatever you’re doing. It’s just a great and so for the orchestra, we did the recording , we wrote a French horn part which we had in the band at that pit that you hear occasionally on the album. You won’t hear it in the pit when you come to the show, but it’s covered in other ways.

There was another sound that’s in this show that I really like the color of is the Regina character and we decided that she was such an interesting powerful character and presence in the show and that she was also represented what was supposed to be the evil side of things but she was also supposed to be the human side we would see on the show. We decided to voice a lot of her stuff that it sounded like a Bond theme song. Like everything she sings from has this kind of this symphonic, big John Barry cinema graphic film score sound that also coupled with these rocking guitars underneath it, which it felt like, “Oh, this sounds like Regina.”

That was a question that we did have. We also had the question of answering the question, when would Regina sing first? That was like a big thing and we this way for her to sing. We finally, when she sings where she just sings about herself but she almost sings it as a whisper. Then you can feel every time we were doing that early on that it made people sit on the edge of their seat in a way that you would not imagine. Like when she comes out and she just sings this singy stage whisper that makes everybody listen as close as they can to her and you realize, “Oh, that was such a great move to show how much power she had. That’s a status move of somebody to speak as quiet as they can so you have to hear them.”

Jesse Cannon: This is Ashley Park talking about both the stress and the thrill of the cast recording.

Ashley Park: It’s as intimidating as it is liberating. There is no wrong way to do it. There’s nothing to compare it to when you do an original cast recording. This is the first time most of the world is going to hear these songs and they have nothing else to compare to, but in that way, it’s intimidating because you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, like this is the recording that people will listen to and they’ll make choices based off of this.” Even if it’s not imitating and even if they’re doing their own thing, this is the first time people will hear these songs. It’s really, really cool. I mean, the cast recording is truly one of the coolest part of an original Broadway musical process. I mean, I make a joke where like, until we are on that cast recording, I’m like, “Oh, my god, they could fire me at any point.” Like, “Am I fired yet? Am I fired yet? Am I fired?”

I was raised in Michigan and I didn’t see a Broadway show until the summer before my senior year of high school. For me, cast recordings were my access to Broadway. It’s so fascinating, ’cause like, I remember when my favorite soundtracks was “Wicked.” I remember hearing dialogue and being able to envision the scene and so especially in this musical, and my character especially, we actually used a lot of the dialogue in the, we give some of the story within our cast recording, which was like very intimidating to do.

Because you really want to, you have to set up the story in a way with your voice and you don’t have the luxury or the set and the costumes and the rest of the story and the rest of the characters. That’s always like super fun though, because my songs are the ballads in the show, I was one of the few numbers that got to record with the band live because we weren’t doing it to a click track. ‘Cause a lot of the other, any other songs in time, ’cause it’s such a dance heavy show, too. The conductors use the click track but with my song, it’s really cool that we’ve developed this breadth, because what’s wrong with me is especially difficult.

Music uses melody to listen to but the rhythm, Jeff has like opposing rhythms in it, which is once it’s in your body, you can’t forget it. It was cool, we don’t get to see the band and thing with them as we watch their strings and their horns playing so that’s like the coolest part of doing a cast recording is when you can, you kind of have access to that. You get to see it in a way that you never get to with like headphones on where you can hear every flute and every oboe. This is my third cast recording, but the other two I’ve done have been revivals of musicals which is the whole different thing, so like this had a whole new, even though it wasn’t my first cast album, it had a whole new exciting feel to it.

Jesse Cannon: Here Barrett talks about her least favorite part of making these recordings.

Barrett Weed: Yes, I really don’t like when we have to take out expletives in albums. I really don’t like that and we had to do that a little bit on this album, which I get. If you want to put it on Radio Disney or something like that and have it be accessible to even younger fans like, of course, then we’ve got to. If you’re dealing with eight year olds listening to this album, then you have to take out the word asshole but I think replacing the lyric, “Every asshole has opinions but it doesn’t make them true,” with “Everybody has opinions and it doesn’t make them true,” it’s like, “Well, that’s not really the same thing, is it?”

They didn’t really tell me about it. They were just like, “We’re just going to do this for this one edit, just for the really young kids,” and then it wound up on the album and I was like, “Oh, boy.” But as far as like vocally and stuff, my voice, I have a gigantic voice and it is a voice that has been trained and designed to fill up huge rooms, so obviously when you’re recording an album, you’ve got to use your, like your inside voice a little bit, but that’s the only thing that really changed.

We had a really good time recording this. I mean I think it’s really nice to put something on a record that you know so well. I think that’s really rare and definitely I think that’s rare for Atlantic and then as they’re kind of venturing into doing cast recordings now which is incredible, because Atlantic Records’ reach is so huge. Something that would take another type of artist, maybe might take days to record one song. It takes us like two or three passes, ’cause we already know it so well, which allows for a lot of fun to be had in the recording studio and I think we had cameras in there filming us while we were recording and initially, that’s really weird. Then as the days progress, you just kind of forget that that’s what they’re to do.

You forget that they’re there to watch what you’re doing so you just do what you would normally be doing. This a very, a very, very close knit, it’s a very silly cast and we tend to find, especially our adorable ensemble members, we tend to find any excuse to joke around or make a joke out of something or laugh directly in each others’ faces. I think that is especially true when we were recording this album.

Jesse Cannon: Now we’ve talked about the recording but it still has to get mixed to I turned to Craig to talk about that part of it, ’cause this mix sounds so much more exciting than most Broadway records.

Craig Rosen: Part of the mixing process is you’ve recorded all of these performances and now in the mixing process, it’s a combination of finding and choosing the best performances of every element of every song and then there’s the direction of what it should sound like. We worked very hard on kind of piecing together the best of the performances. Then gave our mixer Neil Avron really clear direction that this was supposed to sound like a record and not necessarily like a Broadway performance, so that was how we approached mixing in general.

We tended to get really, really in the details. Every song, the first mix would come back and we would have maybe dozens of very specific comments. “The trombone in this part has to be louder.” “The vocals here have to be lower.” “The strings in this four second part should be slightly warmer.” Really specific mix comments. Then we got to the song “I See Stars.” I remember when we were recording the song, I turned to Clancy who was the orchestrator and one of the co-producers on the album and said, “When we mix this song, it is going to sound amazing.” We got the first mix back and this is, this is the finale of the show and it came back and the first mix sounded like the finale of a Broadway show.

Rather than send it to everyone and get everyone’s specific comments, I said, “You know what, I don’t want anyone to even listen to this mix. This isn’t the right direction,” and spoke to Neil and said, “Listen, up until now, we’ve been really specific and maybe we should have given you clearer direction on how to mix this particular song. This song is Coldplay, U2, epic rock anthem, big production mix. Think of it that way, don’t think of it as a Broadway finale.” He said, “Okay, got it,” went and did a new mix. He came back and when I heard it for the first time, I literally cried, and then we sent it to everyone for their comments and Clancy wrote back and said, “Oh, my god, I literally just cried.” Out of all of the songs, after we got that mix back, we ended up making one comment and then just left it exactly the way it was.

We had a listening event the night before the album came out where the whole cast came to Atlantic and we all listened to the record together and I was talking to Clancy again about that song. He said, “You know the reason that I got so emotional about it was because when we were working on this song, this is what I always imagined it would sound like and when I heard that mix, it was the first time that I actually heard it the way I heard it in my imagination.” To me, that’s the greatest compliment of what working on a cast album like this should be, that they spend all of this time working on trying to create what the show is going to look like and sound like and how audiences are going to respond to it, but the cast album is something else.

It’s a time capsule of these songs and to be able to really make it sound like a record and to make it into a record that people want to listen to independently, over and over again, for the experience of the recorded songs, for someone to say, “This is what I always imagined the songs should sound like,” is just, it’s just the greatest endorsement that we actually figured out how to do it the right way.

Jesse Cannon: Here’s John Clancy to give a few thoughts on the mix.

John Clancy: I will tell you this, I have done a bunch of shows now and I’m fortunate that pretty much all the shows I’ve written orchestrations for have been recorded. That being said, I’ve never been happy in my life with a record because, generally, the aesthetic of music theater is vocals loud, music somewhere off in Cuba somewhere, you know what I’m saying? Yeah, like I grew up with real records. I liked to meet like Pink Floyd “The Wall,” the greatest sounding record. I don’t listen to cast albums. I can’t understand how anyone can listen to them. I didn’t know what to expect from the “Mean Girls” record but I didn’t necessarily think I would love it by any stretch. Also, I had not done a record with Atlantic, because they hadn’t done that many cast records.

Man, the first mix came back, it was, “I’d Rather be Me,” and I shed a tear in my studio ’cause I couldn’t believe how great it sounded and I called them up immediately and I was like, “What the hell.” The dude who mixed it, Neil Avron is super bad ass and I can’t say enough about that guy, and then he took all my notes, ’cause I sent him millions of little notes about, “Oh, bass clarinet in this part and there’s cello.” ‘Cause all the stuff that’s hard to dig out and he didn’t know the music. You know, he just got thrown the mix. He didn’t know the score like I did and, man, he followed all the notes and he really was interested in making all the little tiny insides of it shine. Man, I cannot say enough about doing the record with that company and having that mixer. I really can’t, I love the whole thing and so that’s my favorite thing about this whole thing, I just never expected to be anything and I think it sounds amazing.

Jesse Cannon: Now that we’ve talked so much about what makes this musical so special, I thought what Barrett said here really would be a nice way to close it out, since she talks about what made this collaboration so great.

Barrett Weed: We’ve all been working together for a long time now. I mean, even the people, ’cause we did a developmental process a little over a year ago and then we went to, we took the show to DC in the fall and so we had a little bit of cast change over then ’cause a couple of people opted out of continuing with the project. Even just from DC, until now, it’s just insane like how much time we’ve all spent together. It’s nuts to hear like, I feel like that’s reflected in the album as well where you can feel like what a cohesive unit it is and you can feel how as the people who wrote the show got to know us, better, they started rewriting things and kind of tailoring stuff to the people involved and that’s, I think that’s why I love theater and theater music so much is ’cause it’s like such an intensely collaborative art form. You can’t do it alone.

You need literally like hundreds of people to help you do whatever aspect of performing you’re trying to do. It’s not possible to light yourself. It’s not possible to really direct yourself, even if you are self-directing, you have to have somebody watching and you can write music for yourself. It’s, you still need people to test drive it, like even when Manuel was writing “Hamilton” and they were doing their developmental workshops, he had to have another person step in and do his “Hamilton” track so that he could watch it and edit after the fact. That’s why it just creates, for better or for worse, it creates a really intense community in whatever show you’re doing and sometimes that’s the reason that shows don’t do very well, is ’cause people aren’t communicating and they aren’t talking to each other and they aren’t willing to let go of something that isn’t working or they aren’t willing to try something new and they think that’s been the opposite of what’s true for this show is like everybody is very, very willing to let the best idea in the room win and I think that is very attributed to Tina, ’cause that’s the tone that she sets. Like she’s the most successful person in the room so it’s, other than Lorne, but Lorne is more of our like spectral benefactor.

He like floats in and out of the theater and in and out of rehearsal rooms like a friendly little ghost and Tina’s the one who’s there every day and if the most successful person in the room is deferring to an ensemble member or deferring to a non-celebrity principal cast member to get an idea for a scene or to get an idea for a song or a musical shift, then you just kind of naturally are fostering in a very, very creative, collaborative environment. I think that’s why the show has superseded community expectations for it. I think a lot of people came in expecting to see kind of like a theme park version of a favorite movie and it’s so much more than that and we owe that completely to Tina. Like she may not have written or thought of every single thing but she allowed the best idea to constantly win and that’s a big deal.

Jesse Cannon: Thanks so much for listening. To find more of our podcasts, head to The “Mean Girls (Original Broadway Cast Recording)” is now available on CD and streaming everywhere.