In the Broadway version of Mean Girls, Tina Fey’s musical adaptation of the 2004 teen film that she also wrote, Regina George and her cohorts Gretchen Wieners and Karen Smith make their long-awaited entrance on a high school cafeteria table during the show’s fourth number, “Meet the Plastics.” And just like that, the show belongs to Taylor Louderman, Mean Girls’ newest queen bee and 2018 Tony nominee for Best Leading Actress in a Musical.
Backstage, however, before making her debut, Louderman takes her time transforming into the high school teen. “I am not even ready at all by the time everybody else is starting the show,” the actress reveals to ET, still in street clothes when the production gets underway. But soon, the makeup is applied, her hair is done and the clothing is on. Louderman is joined by Ashley Park and Kate Rockwell (who play Gretchen and Karen, respectively) as they gather around the cafeteria table in their “power poses,” before hair supervisor Joshua First does a final fix of the hair and Louderman’s dresser Andrae Gonzalo -- yes, the former Project Runway contestant -- gives a tug on her pants.
“Kate and Ashley will put their hands on my legs and that’s when I start feeling it, but it’s not until the music hits that I really feel it,” Louderman says, no longer a small town girl from the Midwest but the most beloved and feared high school teen on Broadway.
Born in Madison, Wisconsin, and later growing up outside of St. Louis, Missouri, Louderman started acting at the age of 10, playing the title role in a local production of “Annie.” She eventually worked her way from regional theater gigs to Broadway, where she made her debut as Campbell in the musical adaptation of Bring It On, which was followed by Wendy Darling in NBC’s Peter Pan Live! and back to Broadway in Kinky Boots.
“Did I ever think I would be getting to play Regina George on Broadway? No!” gushers Louderman. The 27-year-old actress could not be more humble or different from her onstage persona, adding, “I’ll take the challenge.”
Not only does the original film about a homeschooled girl entering high school and navigating the tricky relationships between teen girls have diehard fans who have been anxiously awaiting the stage version, Louderman is taking on an iconic character originated onscreen by Rachel McAdams, an actress who has emerged from a generation of teen actors to become an Oscar-nominated performer and someone Louderman reveres. “I really look up to her,” she says. “This is unreal to get to play a role that she originated.”
Not only that, but Louderman also gets to work with Fey, who has been very hands-on with the production, sitting in on auditions (“She was very kind and gave me a laugh,” Louderman recalls) and working closely with the actors throughout rehearsals and the show’s Washington, D.C., tryout. “It’s been really cool to see how focused she has been and how her ego has never gotten in the way,” she says of Fey, who has taught her and her co-stars a lot in this process. “The best idea always wins, and that’s what makes such a successful product.”
Having starred in another teen film-turned-musical, Louderman is no stranger to the anticipation and demands of transforming a beloved story for the stage. “It’s challenging, but also really, really rewarding,” she says, acknowledging that “people have expectations.” But what sets Mean Girls apart from Bring It On, she says, is Fey’s writing. “It’s just so smart, so witty and so funny. You’re getting all your favorite moments from the film.” The same set-ups are there, but the punchlines are different. “She’s changed that. She is still giving you those moments for us to relive, but in a different way, so you’re still surprised.”
Ultimately, for Louderman, being part of the Mean Girls production is “the coolest thing I have ever done,” she says, adding that she’s relishing the opportunity to share the story’s underlying message about female empowerment and support for one another to young people. “I didn’t really realize I would have the opportunity to do that with this show. That has been something that surprised me and feels really good. You’re sort of giving back to society through this fun and witty performance.”
The 2018 Tony Awards hosted by Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles will be handed out live at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 10, starting at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.