When it was first announced that Mean Girls—the film that became an instant classic when it hit theaters in 2004—was being made into a Broadway musical, many were skeptical. Could “fetch” even happen onstage?
Ultimately, however, Tina Fey‘s adaptation of her movie (which, in turn, was based on a 2002 self-help book called Queen Bees and Wannabes) proved to be a huge success. It was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, brought a bevy of celebrity audience members to the theater district, and received rave reviews.
And so, producer Lorne Michaels’ eyes filled with cartoon dollar signs and now Mean Girls will be the next big Broadway production to be adapted for the screen—even though it started out as a movie in the first place.
Fey released a statement on Thursday confirming that she will “bring Mean Girls back to the big screen” after 16 years of living with Cady Heron, Gretchen Wieners, Regina George, Janis Ian, and so on.
Not to get too “well, actually…” about how it’s weird for this movie to be adapted into a musical and then back into a movie, but, well, actually, it isn’t all that unusual. In fact, this is a model the industry has followed for years.
The original Harispray was a 1988 satirical comedy directed by John Waters, starring Ricki Lake and Colleen Fitzpatrick (better known as Vitamin C) that became a cult classic. In 2002, when it was first reimagined as a musical about Tracy Turnblad’s attempt to be cast on The Corny Collins show and protest segregation in Baltimore, with music and lyrics from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Hairspray made it to Broadway and won the Tony Award for Best Musical. That’s the Hairspray that served as the main source material for the second film version, a 2007 movie starring Nikki Blonsky and John Travolta.
This happened with Chicago, too, which has technically been adapted for the screen three times. In 1926, Maurine Dallas Watkins took two real-life 1924 court cases and satirized them in a Broadway stage play called Chicago. In 1927, that play was adapted into film with the same characters. That film was then re-made in 1942, except it was called Roxie and starred Ginger Rogers as the murderess in question.
Three decades later, in 1975, Chicago was given the musical treatment (with some Bob Fosse choreography) and then, in 2002, turned into an Oscar-winning film starring Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta Jones. And the fact that it is now the second longest-running show on Broadway is proof that this kind of endless adaptation can really pay off.
Sunset Boulevard also went from 1950 noir film to 1993 stage musical (with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber) to a forthcoming movie musical starring Glenn Close (who won a Tony for playing Norma Desmond in 1994 and starred in the 2017 Broadway revival). And do not even get us started with Cats.
And with the onslaught of movies that fans would never have thought might get the musical treatment ending up on Broadway anyway, it is probably only a matter of time before we get movie musical adaptations of Clueless, The Devil Wears Prada, The Color Purple, or even American Psycho.
Mean Girls has been adapted and referenced ad nauseam (thank you, Ariana Grande, and every single person who thinks re-posting the statement that “on Wednesdays, we wear pink” is still cause for laughs) for over a decade, from the book to the screen to the stage and back to the screen again. This snake will never stop eating its tail, but one thing remains true—no one can ever replace Lindsay Lohan.