Award-winning composer Jeff Richmond talks 'Mean Girls' ahead of Des Moines stop
At the Broadway premiere of a new musical based on her hit teen comedy "Mean Girls," Tina Fey and her celebrity pals Jimmy Fallon and Ellie Kemper discuss the timeliness of the story. (April 9)
"Mean Girls" on Broadway will be coming to Des Moines from Oct. 15-20 and marks the third stop on the show's national tour.
Writer and actress Tina Fey, composer Jeff Richmond, lyricist Nell Benjamin, and director Casey Nicholaw collaborated to create the musical. Heavily inspired by the theme of the pop culture classic "Mean Girls" film, Fey's husband, Richmond, goes into detail about the making of the musical and what fans can expect.
Richmond is an award-winning composer, songwriter and producer for television, theatre and film. His resume includes serving as composer and executive producer on NBC's "30 Rock," winning three Primetime Emmy Awards alongside his wife, Fey. He was also a musical director at The Second City in Chicago and at "Saturday Night Live."
More recently, Richmond was executive producer and and a director for "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" in New York City. He also scored episodes.
He spoke to the Des Moines Register about the details of the production.
How will the Broadway "Mean Girls" differ from the film? Is there anything that will remain the same?
The Broadway "Mean Girls" has this flasher approach to the material that's in the movie, which deals with teenagers, young girls and relational aggression towards each other. When you put that in Broadway, you have to dig into it to make it feel big enough to fill a stage as opposed to the theater.
If I thought there were any thematic differences, it would be in the way bullying has become a wider tool in our society. I think it's become widespread, and our culture has embraced bullying on a bigger scale with the way social media can be weaponized. But it's still super funny. It's a big flashy musical with big musical numbers and everybody sings and dances.
What was the process behind writing music for "Mean Girls?" Were there any challenges you faced creating the music for the show?
Tina, who has never written a full-length musical, leaned on myself and Benjamin to frame up how the funds were going to be used. Tina's great with the script, but we had to decide how actually to work as a threesome. So we'd sit down with a group and see what character felt like they needed to sing at that moment based on the emotional content of the story line. Then what would be the actual context of that song? How do you take that moment and find an interesting hook to that song? And then what would be an interesting style for that particular character to sing?
The hardest part of writing musicals is figuring out what and where these songs go. They continue to move the story forward. Early on we decided that it wasn't going to sound like a typical pop musical Broadway score because it didn't feel honest on every character. (For) the character Janis Ian, who is this Goth girl, when she sang rock and roll, that felt great. If she sings something that's too much like pop music, it didn't feel honest. So there is a lot of styles, and they're melded together.
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Your wife, Tina Fey, wrote "Mean Girls." Do you know what inspired her to write the screenplay and musical?
Tina writes from an honest place, and she uses her own experiences in life and finds a way to write the funny in everything that she's experienced in her life. Some people in the show are based on people she went to high school with. There is an actual Damian, Ms. Norbury, and everybody has had a Regina. "Mean Girls" is also based on a book called "Queen Bees and Wannabes" by Rosalind Wiseman. It is nonfictional of how girls treated each other in high school. She got a lot of ideas and inspirations from that book. She licensed that book from Rosalind to add a spine to the "Mean Girls" movie.
What do you want people's thoughts and feelings to be once they've seen the Broadway show?
When they leave the theater that night, I want people to be inspired and happy and feel like they've been entertained for two and a half hours. Plus, we want to remind people that they need not use bullying. People should listen to each other, and if they have disagreements, they still treat people with respect and dignity. Don't try to snatch that away from people even though you disagree with them. Lastly, to say, "That was so much fun. I want to come back."
If you go
Dates: Oct. 15-20. 7:30 p.m. shows Oct. 15-19. 2 p.m. and 7:30 Oct. 19. 1 p.m. and 6:30 on Oct. 20.
Where: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines