When senior acting majors Katie Emma Filby and Kristina Meyering envisioned their show Nice Girls: A Musical Parody, recruiting friends in the theater and film departments wasn’t a challenge, as most of them were long time fans of the original movie, Mean Girls.
The real feat was writing a show in May that was stage-ready by Nov. 4-6. But, the group rallied together to perfect and rehearse the songs and dialogue for a show in a matter of months, condensing a process that can take several years.
“The more it grew, the more we saw what it could be,” Filby said. “When you see the potential of something, you have the obligation to follow through and do your best work. Spiritually for me, I think that if God has called me to something, I have to follow through to make it impactful to people.”
Nice Girls is the first ever professional theater production produced entirely by APU students. The cast members are all current students, the show is directed by alumna Hannah Bushyeager and the songs are all original compositions by alumnus Steven Schmidt.
The show is loosely based on Tina Fey’s 2004 cult classic, but amplifies archetypes and ethic principles. Fans of the original movie will recognize similarities, but notice how cast members have made the characters their own. Regina George is more power hungry, Cady Heron is more naive, Karen Smith is more ditzy, Aaron Samuels is more attached to his mother, Gretchen Weiners is Jewish and Janis and Damian are vampires.
Filby plays Queen B Regina George, and said her favorite moment on stage as the character is a Hamilton-speed rap she performs after Regina finds out Cady is manipulating her.
“It’s a minute and a half of spitting fire with five boys back up dancing and it’s the best thing,” Filby said. “I’m in a Juicy Couture track suit and it’s all I could have asked for in my life.”
Like the Juicy Couture ensemble, the musical features spot-on early 2000’s garb, including mini skirts, clear dress straps, flannel, graphic T-shirts and polo shirts.
In the midst of the show’s humor, Filby said the goal is to show how relatable each character is. As Cady seeks acceptance, Regina is bossy, Gretchen is people-pleasing and Karen is overlooked. She said viewers can identify with them all. The show concludes with a song entitled We’re All Just Wannabes, a thematic finale that reveals each of the characters’ motivations.
“The whole show, you watch people tear each other apart up until the end,” Filby said. “It gets that message across that we all have to empower and support each other, because we all have this basic need to be loved. If we’re not receiving it or giving it out, then we just write Burn Books.”
Junior acting major Ellie Oliver, who played Cady Heron, said preparing for the show was a mix of fun and chaos, but that overall it improved her work ethic as an actress.
“We all worked extremely well together,” Oliver said. “We all had to be really flexible, because without that flexibility the show would have never come together. We got to struggle through a lot together and come out on the other side much stronger, and the show would not be what it is now without all of us working as one unit.”
Oliver said the inspiration for her version of Cady Heron was a hybrid of Anna from Frozen and Kimmy Schmidt. She said the juxtaposition of the naive character at the start with the nasty version at the end created a stronger character arc.
“I hope the audience sees how hard we have worked on this show and I hope they come into the show expecting one thing and then being totally blown away with how different it is,” she said. “I really want them to be able to laugh and enjoy everything they’re seeing on stage.”
Stage manager and senior film major Anna Kane had never worked on a musical theater set prior to the show, but said it fueled a passion and love in her. She said her favorite part of the show was seeing it exceed her expectations on stage when it was performed.
“You have notes on a page and you have words in a song, but to hear and see everyone bring the characters to life on stage is such a cool experience,” Kane said.
The cast and crew plan to put the show on YouTube in hopes of gaining an online presence. Filby said she hopes to fine tune it and perhaps continue the show after she graduates. Paramount Pictures found out about the show, which Filby said is motivation to get other big name companies to familiarize themselves with the musical.
Over $3,000 was raised from the three performances, and all proceeds of the show went to Let Girls Learn, Michelle Obama’s initiative to get females access to education worldwide. Follow the musical at nicegirlsamusicalparody on Instagram.