Mean Girls in Trouble?

By Jacob Winkler

This April, Mean Girls will celebrate its two year anniversary on Broadway. Two years ago, the musical based on the cult-classic Tina Fey movie of the same name, opened at the August Wilson Theater in NYC after an Off-Broadway try-out in Washington D.C six months prior. The musical was nominated for multiple awards, including twelve Tony Awards, nine Drama Desk awards, two Drama League Awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, and three Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography. Out of these thirty two nominations, the production only won three (Drama Desk’s Outstanding Book of a Musical Award, Outer Critics Circle’s Outstanding Book of a Musical Award(s), and Chita Rivera’s Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show Award); it is also important to know that several of these award nominations were for best actor/actress and not for the show itself.

The Mean Girls marquee of the August Wilson Theater

Many notable Broadway performers were in the show, including Kerry Butler as Mrs. Heron/Mrs. George/Ms. Norbury, Grey Hensen as Damien, Kate Rockwell as Karen Smith, Ashley Park as Gretchen Wieners, Taylor Louderman as Regina, Erika Henningsen as Cady, Kyle Selig as Aaron Samuels, and Barrett Wilbert Weed as Janis. The musical is very successful, and is adored by many in the musical theater “fandom”, primarily for its cast; or should I say original cast?

All of the cast members I previously mentioned have all left the show and been replaced. While Butler, Park, and Louderman left a while ago, in the span of only a few weeks, Hensen, Rockwell, Henningsen, and Weed all departed from the production, or were announced to be leaving soon. Even Butler’s successor, Jennifer Simard, left the show recently. While most of the cast replacements were generally neutral (Chad Burris soon to replace Hensen, Olivia Kaufmann to soon replace Weed, Catherine Brunell replacing Simard, Krystina Alabado as Gretchen Weiners, and Renee Rapp replacing Louderman), other cast decisions haven’t been as well received, or are somewhat questioned.

Cameron Dallas as Aaron Samuels performing alongside Erika Henningsen as Cady Heron

Social media celebrity Cameron Dallas recently played Aaron Samuels for a four week engagement, temporarily replacing Selig during his leave of absence. To put it simply, Dallas’s run was not well received…at all. Several critics stated that Dallas’s performance was very lackluster and unprofessional, saying he had poor stage presence, couldn’t sing properly, and butchered the dialogue (some saying he sounded as if he was reading directly off of a teleprompter). One person even claimed that his performance made the audience visibly uncomfortable.

Singer, song-writer, and actress Sabrina Carpenter

Uprising singer and actress, Sabrina Carpenter, whom is known for her work on the Disney television shows Girl Meets World, Sofia the First, and the Netflix original movie Tall Girl, will go-on to replace Erika Henningsen as Cady Heron this March (Henningsen played her final performance in the show on February 22nd). Carpenter’s performance could make or break the show. While Carpenter has lots of acting and singing experience, and multiple fans that could buy tickets for the show just to see her, she hasn’t had experience in theater (to my knowledge), or performing on Broadway for that matter. I’m sure that with the credentials she has, she’ll do fine; but television and movie acting is much different than musical theater, and Carpenter might be more cut-out for the screen and not the stage.

Promotional footage of Kate Rockwell as Karen Smith

Another replacement announced was Laura Leigh Turner replacing Rockwell as Karen Smith. Turner has received massive backlash from Mean Girls fans for following multiple right-wing politicians on Twitter, and supporting many political figures seen as sexist and homophobic. Many people see this as a slap to the face for Mean Girls as a whole, for it is celebrated for being a feminist movie; and that casting an actress who supports people as i mentioned earlier isn’t right.

The original Broadway cast from left to right: Erika Henningsen, Kyle Selig, Kate Rockwell, Rick Younger, Barrett Wilbert Weed, Kerry Butler, Cheech Manohar, Ashley Park, Grey Hensen, and Taylor Lounderman

The reason I state these cast changes as a problem to the show is very simple: ticket sales. Ticket sales and profit is one of the leading factors to a Broadway show’s life. If a show doesn’t collect a certain amount of money by a certain time, or sell enough tickets, the show must close. Sometimes the thing that can draw in, or even “scare” away, audiences and fans is a show’s cast. Now, Dallas has already ended his run and Selig returned, Henningsen, Weed, Rockwell, and Hensen are all about to leave, and the controversial Turner and seemingly neutral Carpenter about to join. While replacements like Rapp and Alabado were well received, only time will tell how the others perform. If they do well, the show will most-likely go on, but if they founder, the curtains may close on Mean Girls.

The Ladies of Jazz Music

By Jacob Winkler

Jazz music has been a staple of American and world culture for years. While there are lots of male jazz-artists, there are also several very talented female-singers in the field of jazz music. Ella Fitzgerald, Eva Cassidy, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, and Etta Jones are some of the best and most well-known female, and over-all, jazz artists from the 20th century (which is when their careers began and/or lasted). I’m going to talk about these five jazz legends and give a run-down of their careers. 

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996)

(Fitzgerald pictured in the 1950s/1960s)

Ella Fitzgerald is one of the most recognized and well known singers in music history. Fitzgerald, born in Newport New, VA in 1917, performed at Amateur Nights at the Apollo Theater in NYC as a singer, and won first place. One of her earliest hits was a jazzy version of the children’s nursery rhyme “A-Tisket, A-Tasket”, followed by a slew of hits released through-out her career, such as “Summertime”, “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, “Cheek to Cheek”, “How High The Moon”, “Someone To Watch Over Me”, and “Blue Skies”. She sadly passed away at her home in 1996 due to a stroke, and was buried in Los Angeles after a private funeral.

 Eva Cassidy (1963-1996)

(Cassidy pictured in 1988)

Eva Cassidy was a guitarist, pianist, and singer from Maryland. Known outside of the DC/Maryland area through-out her life, she didn’t rise to stardom during her lifetime, she didn’t release a chart topping album or a platinum selling single in the span of her life-time. She simply sang for her community. She sang from her heart. Eva unfortunately developed and soon died from cancer in November of 1996, at her family’s home in Maryland. After her death, her first album of previously recorded material, was released in September of 1997. Titled Eva by Heart, the album was positively received, but a compilation album of songs recorded by Eva, released in 1998 and titled Songbird, was a hit. From then on, several albums of previously recorded and unreleased material from Cassidy (including covers of hits like Time After Time, Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Kathy’s Song, Imagine, and Coat of Many Colors) would be released, cementing Eva as a jazz legend. 

Billie Holiday (1915-1959)

(Holiday pictured in 1957, laying down a track at a New York City recording studio)

For nearly thirty years, Billie Holiday entertained the world with her jazz music. Her career might not have lasted as long as the other women on this lust, but she still cemented herself as an amazing singer and jazz artist. Billie is known for hits such as “Strange Fruit”, “Blue Moon”, and “I Cover the Waterfront”. She unfortunately passed away due to pulmonary edema and heart failure in 1959, cutting her musical career far to short.

Aretha Franklin (1942-2018)

(Franklin photographed by Michael Ochs in the 1950s/1960s)

Aretha Franklin is arguably one of the most well known singers of all time. She has turned out multiple hit singles and albums over the span of her more than sixty-year career. Several songs from her repertoire include “Call Me”, “Jump to It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Respect”, and “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman”. On August 13, 2018, she was reported to be gravely ill, and she died at her home three days later. A memorial service was held another three days later, with celebrities such as Ariana Grande, Queen Latifah, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight in attendance.

Etta Jones (1928-2001)

(Jones pictured on the cover of her 1995 album, At Last)

South Carolina native, Etta Jones, recorded many hits over the span of her over 50 year career, including songs like “Don’t Go to Strangers”, “Save Your Love for Me”, and a cover of “At Last”. Jones has not only turned out amazing material on her own, she has also worked with legends such as Houston Preston, Buddy Johnson, and Leonard Feather. Jones received three Grammy nominations for three of her albums “My Buddy” (1998; dedicated to Buddy Johnson), “Save Your Love For Me (1981) and “Don’t Go to Strangers” (1960), the latter being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. She passed away at the age of 72 in New York.

There are many more influential, legendary, and exceptionally talented jazz artists, both male and female; but I had to narrow it down to some of my personal favorites. Jazz is a very important piece to the America-Music puzzle, and it plays a big role in musical culture and the culture of the twentieth-century as-a-whole. There are many people with varying opinions on jazz music, but I’m sure that everyone can agree that these five singers are some of the best artists of the jazz genre.