Mean Girls: Why It Got Remade Into a Musical, Explained

By Jennifer McDonough Posted:
Mean Girls 2024 movie

Get the scoop on what inspired the new musical Mean Girls remake that hit cinemas earlier this year.

The original 2004 Mean Girls, which starred Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams, is a stone-cold classic of the teen comedy genre. It’s nearly universally beloved. So, many were surely skeptical when a musical remake was announced as they pondered whether it could recapture the glory of the '04 film.

Upon hitting theaters, the Mean Girls remake failed to live up to those lofty hopes that it would match the Lohan-fronted source material. It earned a somewhat decent $104 million on a $36 million budget and critical reactions were mixed. (Read about the entire cast of 2024’s Mean Girls here.)

Why Did Paramount Remake Mean Girls?

mean girls Reneé Rapp as Regina George

Oftentimes, with Hollywood sequels, reboots, and remakes, there’s a strong built-in resistance from the audience who are apprehensive about studios trying to recapture lightning in a bottle. 

But in the case of the Mean Girls remake, the basis for taking another run at the fan-favorite had to do with the fact that the property was a successful Broadway stage musical.

The show opened in 2017 and initially ran until 2020, getting cut short by the pandemic, but it has since returned and is currently on a national tour. The Mean Girls stage production has been a smash hit and received various award nominations, including multiple Tony Award nods.

The popularity of the musical is what prompted Paramount Pictures to convert it into a live-action theatrical film.

Executive producer Tina Fey, who also wrote the OG Mean Girls, the Broadway musical, and the movie remake (as well as starring as Ms. Norbury in both films), offered some insight to Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show about how the stage musical was adapted into the movie:

“It was great and it was so fun to take the- kind of what we learned from doing the Broadway musical and the tentpole songs and then like, put them back into more of a cinematic, music video-style, a more pop style. They look really fluid and cool.”

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Mean Girls producer Lorne Michaels (of Saturday Night Live fame) made the claim that the film “isn’t a remake” but instead a “new interpretation:”

“It was about: How do we do the best of the musical, plus the best of the original? It isn’t a remake, it’s a new interpretation. It feels like a familiar enough story, but it’s for today.”

Similarly, co-director Samantha Jayne held great reverence for the original film, noting the “challenge” of trying to prove to longtime viewers that the song-and-dance redo was worth doing.

“As a cynical millennial myself, I knew the challenge would be people being like, ‘Why are you touching my ‘Mean Girls’?’ That was a challenge we were trying to answer every day with this movie.”

The 2024 film’s lead, Spider-Man: Far From Home’s Angourie Rice also remarked to Broadway World on the “huge responsibility” of adapting a property that fans hold so near and dear to their hearts:

"Musical theatre fans are so dedicated and passionate in a way that is frightening because I love musicals. I am a huge musical theatre fan but I also know that there is a huge responsibility there when your favorite musical or your favorite movie gets adapted again. It's a big responsibility to the fans." 

Why Wasn't Mean Girls Marketed as a Musical in Trailers?

Leading up to its January 12 release in theaters, Mean Girls adopted the approach taken by December 2023’s Wonka: The trailers and TV spots used to market the film notably did not advertise the fact that it was a musical. 

The pre-release marketing famously didn’t contain any of the movie’s songs and apart from a musical note in the logo, no indication was given about the nature of the film.

When faced with a query from Variety over whether Paramount deliberately chose to market the film as a musical, the studio’s president of global marketing and distribution Marc Weinstock gave the following response, stating that the intention was simply to not appear “overbearing:”

“We didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical because people tend to treat musicals differently. This movie is a broad comedy with music. Yes, it could be considered a musical but it appeals to a larger audience. You can see in [trailers for] ‘Wonka’ and ‘The Color Purple’, they don’t say musical either. We have a musical note on the title, so there are hints to it without being overbearing.”

Feature film musicals traditionally haven’t been the most popular thing out there, and general audiences often seem less interested in a given movie once they find out that it’s actually a musical, so it could be argued that Paramount made a sound business decision.

How Different Is Mean Girls 2024 From the Broadway Musical?

Likely in order to cut the 2024 Mean Girls film down to a digestible runtime, as well as to maximize audience enjoyment, several of the songs from the stage show on which it was based had to be cut. These numbers include “It Roars”, “More is Better”, and “Fearless”.

The full list of cut songs can be seen below:

  • "It Roars"
  • "It Roars (Reprise)"
  • "Where Do You Belong?"
  • "Stupid With Love (Reprise)"
  • "Fearless"
  • "A Cautionary Tale (Reprise)"
  • "Stop"
  • "What's Wrong With Me? (Reprise)"
  • "Whose House Is This?"
  • "More Is Better"
  • "Someone Gets Hurt (Reprise)"
  • "Fearless (Reprise)"
  • "Do This Thing"

“It Roars” serves as protagonist Cady Heron’s introductory song in the Broadway version. In the movie, it was replaced with “What Ifs”.

Additionally, there are some fairly sizable differences between the two Mean Girls movies. Some characters were shuffled around, or in some cases, renamed or even eliminated altogether (such as Cady’s father.)

One fairly significant character alteration was to make Auliʻi Cravalho‘s Janis (originally portrayed by Lizzy Caplan) a lesbian. Caplan’s Janis was largely believed by fans to be gay but was depicted as straight. Carvahlo mentioned to ScreenRant that the intention behind the change was to empower the character:

“Previously, in our '04 version, lesbian for Janis was used kind of as a slur, and we're taking that back.”

Both cinematic takes on Mean Girls (the 2004 original and the 2024 remake) can be streamed on Paramount+.

- About The Author: Jennifer McDonough
Jennifer McDonough has been a writer at The Direct since its 2020 launch. She is responsible for the creation of news articles and features. She also has a particular affinity for action figures and merchandise, which she revels in discussing in the articles she writes, when the situation calls for it.