Music, Dance and ‘Mean Girls Jr’ At RTC

 Music, Dance and ‘Mean Girls Jr’ At RTC

By Dan Guarino

Music, dance and comedy meet high school cliques and drama in the Rockaway Theatre Company’s Young People’s Theatre Workshop’s production of “Mean Girls Jr.,” opening next Friday, January 12. Running for six spirited performances at RTC’s Post Theater at Fort Tilden, showtimes are Fridays/Saturdays January 12, 13 and 19, 20 at 7 p.m. and Sundays January 14, 21 at 2 p.m.

“Mean Girls Jr.” is abridged from the award-winning musical “Mean Girls,” which premiered on Broadway in 2018. “Mean Girls” onstage was adapted from the 2004 non-musical comedy film of the same name, which was based in part on Rosalind Wiseman’s non-fiction parental guide “Queen Bees and Wannabes.” A new “Mean Girls-The Musical” movie hits theaters this month. Both films and the stage musical were scripted by actress, writer, comedian and Saturday Night Live alumnus Tina Fey.

RTC’s “Mean Girls Jr.” director Mia Melchiorri explains its story centers on a girl named Cady who, coming from being homeschooled, in another country, is “trying to fit in at her new high school. She meets many people along the way including the three ‘queen bees’ of the school, known as ‘The Plastics.’”

At its heart, she says, this “comedic and fun musical really covers a lot of important topics for teens such as the power of social media, being a good friend and more. These characters all face many challenges…and learn valuable life lessons throughout the course of the story.”

Musically, Melchiorri notes, “To be totally honest, I love all of the music in this show, and I am 100% guilty of singing it in my car on the way to rehearsal.”  Some of her favorite numbers include “I’d Rather Be Me,” because of “its important and powerful message” and “Where Do You Belong” for “the razzle dazzle it provides our show!”

Bringing that music and show to full onstage life is a cast of some 30 actors ranging in age from 13-17. Principle players include Lila Donohue as Cady Heron, Eva Ochiogrosso as Regina George, Lauren Schwach as Gretchen Wieners, Delaney Laffler as Karen Smith, Alannah Fabry as Janis Sarkisian and Dylan Taruskin as Damian. “These wildly talented teens share the stage with many other cast members who all equally support in this show.”

The enthusiasm, energy and fun are evident as all involved throw themselves into scene after scene at rehearsals. Starting with one rehearsal a week in the fall, they have gradually extended and added sessions as opening night draws nearer. “This cast and crew are everything I could ask for as a director,” Melchiorri says. “This group is so supportive of each other, often having to be shushed at rehearsal for cheering so much. And their talents are truly shocking for people their age. They offer such wonderful insight about their characters and show up ready to work.”

RTC’s unique and long-running workshop, broken into age groups of 7-12 and 13-17, teaches by involving young actors hands-on in all areas of theatre performance. The younger group is already preparing to present the musical “Junie B. Jones Jr.” this February.

Melchiorri explains, “We meet with each group every Saturday. For the first few weeks, we discuss and learn about different theatrical skills within acting, singing, and dancing. Through games and activities, we prepare the classes for auditions. Following the audition process and casting the shows, we hit the ground running with rehearsals!”

Having started herself at RTC’s workshop at age 7, she has been an active member ever since, performing mostly, but wearing many production hats there also. Having studied theater at the New School and the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and working at off-Broadway’s Theater Center and Broadway’s Green Room 42 cabaret club, she has directed, choreographed and performed at the Green Room and other outside venues.

Though “I’ve directed before,” and was most recently Assistant Director on this past summer’s RTC hit, “Hello Dolly,” alongside “fabulous director, Susan Corning,” she says, “‘Mean Girls Jr.’ is my first directing spot at the RTC.”

About her production crew, she notes, “I am the luckiest director in the world with this team alongside me. Erech Holder-Hetemeyer is our incredible choreographer (who) works in such fantastic ways and…is truly a gifted collaborator. Siobhan Kaulfer, our stage manager, has been so wonderful to work with. I’m so proud to see her growing in the theater. Ashley Chico, our wildly talented costumer is such a fantastic asset to our team. Rich Louis Pierre and Jodee Timpone serve as our music directors. They have worked with this cast to make them shine onstage. Our construction supervisor Anthony Homsey and his team have worked tirelessly to ensure we have an incredible set for our show. We also have other amazing workshop team members like Susan Corning, Adele Wendt, and our program administrator Peggy Page Press, who are all such wonderful helping hands and supporters.”

Melchiorri notes one beloved team member, one of RTC’s founders and prime movers, whose absence has been felt throughout the theater. “When the workshop first started in September, I was co-directing this production with our esteemed artistic director and my dear friend, John Gileece. He is and was such a source of creative inspiration and positivity to all of us at RTC. John passed away in October and this show is dedicated to his memory,” she said.

She adds, “There is something for everyone in this musical. Of course, the movie is such a cult classic. Besides that, everyone can relate to something in this show. Feeling like you don’t belong, insecurity, friendship struggles etc. The show is so much fun, and these teens are ready for a packed house every night! It is so important to continue arts education and to support young people in the arts, so please come on down to watch the future of the RTC on our stage!”

As the “Mean Girls Jr.’s” character Gretchen says, “It’ll be fetch!”

For tickets go to

Photos by Dan Guarino.

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