FFHS’ Mean Girls wear pink at Townshend all week

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Put on your brightest pink and get ready to make “fetch” happen because Fort Frances High School’s production of Mean Girls opens tonight at the Townshend Theatre.

Cast, crew, staff and volunteers have been hard at work for months getting the musical adaptation of the 2004 comedy cult classic ready for show night, and with tonight’s opening performance, everyone in the district can enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Taking its cues from the Tina Fey-penned film that starred Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams, among others, the musical is about Cady Herron, a teen who moves to Chicago after growing up and being homeschooled in Kenya and finds herself confronted with the realities of high school clique life, making friends and coming up against “The Plastics,” a group of popular girls led by Regina George. Hilarity ensues as Cady tries to take down the Plastics from the inside, but finds herself becoming more like them than she wants to admit.

Among the cast of students taking part in the show this year are Alexis Latter as Cady Heron, Piper Lidkea as Regina George and Emerson Archie-Yerxa as Damian Hubbard. All three students are new to musicals at the high school, but all have extensive prior performing experience outisde of school.

When it came time to get ready for the show, Latter and Lidkea noted that while they are both long-time fans of the movie, they weren’t really aware of the Broadway adaptation until word went out it had been selected for this year’s high school musical.

“Before starting this, I didn’t even know that it got turned into a musical,” Latter recalled.

“Once I found out it was a musical I was so excited because I love the movie. I’ve loved watching it with my friends and stuff. As soon as I found out we were doing this musical, I started listening to all the songs, and then I just fell in love with this musical.”

“I am a big fan of the movie, and I was really excited to see that it got turned into a musical production,” Lidkea continued.

“The musical numbers are really great and I’m excited to see it come to life on stage at Fort High.”

Casting a high school show is always a game of ups and downs, since there are only a few lead roles that usually are highly sought-after. All three of the students shared the excitement they felt when they learned what roles they had been given, even of that excitement came with other emotions.

“I was really nervous at the start, because I didn’t think I was going to get the lead” Archie-Yerxa recalled, with his character Damian also serving as co-narrator of the show.

“When I got the lead and started singing, it was really nerve-wracking at first, but I feel that with the support of other people it will be a really good show, especially for me because I’ve never been in one before.

Latter shared that she had “tears of joy” when she found she had been cast as Cady, and texted her mom immediately to share the good news. Lidkea, meanwhile, has been digging into the challenges that come along with playing the villian of a show.

“I was really excited to find out I got Regina,” she said.

“She is the antagonist of the entire thing, so it’s really cool to play the villain, but it’s kind of difficult sometimes because me and Alexis are friends outside of the show. So it’s really hard to be mean to her because she’s so sweet.”

Latter, Lidkea and Archie-Yerxa have all been sighted on stages across the region for years, featuring in any number of vocal, acting and dance recitals or Festivals, and they bring that experience with them to a high school production that is really in new territory compared to shows past. Once upon a time, those just starting their high school career could learn from students who had three or four shows under their belt, but since COVID knocked most of the extra-curriculars at the school out of whack for years, cast members in Mean Girls might only have been part of one or two shows not counting Musical Revues, “Footloose” in 2019 or “Cry-Baby” in 2022.

“It definitely helps to have the background that we have,” Latter said.

“I feel like I’m more prepared. But I feel like everybody’s doing such an amazing job, even the people who haven’t had any experience. One of my best friends in the show, she has never sang before, and this is the first time she’s singing in front of people and she’s doing such an amazing job. And there are so many people who I didn’t know enjoyed acting and singing and I’ve never seen them in anything before, and they are all doing so well.”

“It’s really cool to see everyone come together,” Lidkea said.

“The show is really coming together. It’s cool to work with a bunch of other talented people, especially after COVID not having anything like this. So it’s really nice to see everything coming together again.”

Plenty of rehearsal work has gone into getting the show ready for tonight’s opening performance, with Archie-Yerxa sharing that he has had to learn a good amount of choreography for his role, and as the students get themselves ready for their debut, they all feel that Fort Frances High School’s production of Mean Girls isn’t one to miss.

“The people that are doing the show probably have never experienced a musical before,” he said.

“So they want to show people what we’ve been doing and what we’ve been working on and just share that experience with people.”

“Everyone’s worked so hard,” Latter shared.

“It’s not even just the actors who have put all their effort into this. People put in so much work over the past few months.”

“I think it has a lot of really great musical numbers and the songs are fantastic,” Lidkea said.

“And everyone has put their heart and soul into it. Everyone is doing their best to make this basically the best show it can be. It’s really good.”

Tickets for Fort Frances High School’s production of Mean Girls are available now for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Northwoods Gallery and Gifts. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students, and the show starts at 7:00 p.m. each night.