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The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

The School Newspaper of Lawrence High School.

The Budget

LHS leads the charge in performing Mean Girls musical

Cast and crew fight through adversity to produce the demanding musical

Heading into performance weekend, junior and lead cast member Giulia Ventello could feel the stress. Friday night was the opening performance of LHS Theater’s production of Mean Girls and the long season of practices, rehearsals and workdays was coming to a close. 

Yet, uncertainty surrounded the cast and crew. January had included four snow days. Ventello knew the production had lost significant practice time.

“I think I wasn’t alone in feeling super stressed and worried about it,” she said. 

Aside from lost time, the Mean Girls musical was a demanding production to begin with. The two and a half hour show featured a staggering amount of set changes, and stage times for each actor were unrelenting. 

“It asks so much of every single person, tech and cast,” Ventello said. “Vocally and dance wise it is demanding and it requires so much stamina.” 

Senior Annika Maximov, who played a lead role as Janice, stressed the musical nature of the production.

“The music is contemporary musical theater, so it’s a lot of belting, which is basically controlled screaming,” she said. “[Rehearsal] is not only straining your sleep, but also your body and your voice.”

The production was destined to be big. 

“It was definitely a lot to take on,” Ventello said. “We all knew it was a little ambitious of us.” 

LHS is one of the first high schools in Kansas to perform Mean Girls, which was adapted from a book into a 2004 movie before becoming a Broadway musical. Coincidentally, a remake of the movie was released around the same time as the LHS production.

When stage rights for the musical were released to high school theaters in October 2022, director Craig Fisher had hurried to apply, and LHS was granted rights almost immediately. 

“I was like, ‘We got the rights. We are going to do it,’” Fisher said. 

Since then, however, the musical has faced pushback in high schools across America. Some argue that despite its final message, it glorifies harmful social hierarchies and contains elements inappropriate for a high school production. 

Fisher knew about the controversy — he addressed it in his curtain speech — but defended the decision to stage it at LHS. To all the critics, he argues that the musical, uncensored, is a reflection of the real experiences of high schoolers. 

“While the show from the outside can look like it’s inappropriate,” he said. “These are all things that teenagers are a part of. . .it speaks to their own experiences within the school.” 

Moreover, he believes that the show is a safe outlet for students to confront the issues addressed in the musical. 

“It’s a cautionary tale,” he explained. “It showcases behavior and situations that are currently happening in our building that our students are having to deal with, but it allows them to have some distance because of the comedy.” 

When the audience filled seats on opening night, they witnessed a performance that cast members called the smoothest run-through yet. 

Just a few hours earlier, they’d been given a special surprise: Bebe Woods, the actress who played Gretchen in the 2024 movie musical, had filmed herself wishing LHS students good luck in the performance. Woods is the goddaughter of social studies teacher Tracy Murray and had heard about the school’s production. Murray forwarded the recording to Fisher. 

“When she sent it to me, I was kind of shocked,” Fisher said. He sent the clip to the cast and crew Friday afternoon. 

“It was really cool and encouraging,” Maximov said. “We all went in with an extra boost of energy opening night.” 

In the end, Fisher said no one in the audience could see the challenges that the snow days had created.

“For the performances to be as good as they were, being that far behind,” Fisher said, “they reflected how much hard work that the actors and technicians really put in.”

Even with the loss of time, he said the final productions were the result of more than 400 hours of work.

“When you go see the show, it’s really hard to understand how hard so many people had to work to get to that final product,” Ventello said. 

Ultimately though, she said she feels lucky to be at LHS where theater students are thriving.  

“I think that is part of the reason we were able to get it together,” she said. “Even though it felt like all odds were against us, we stayed headstrong and persistent.”

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About the Contributors
Ashlyn Tell, Reporter
I'm a first-year writer on the journalism staff. Outside of journalism, I love to ride my bike, cook, and spend time with friends.
Sama Abughalia, The Budget Co-Editor in Chief
This is my third year on staff and my first year as an editor in chief. Although I’m really only trained as a photographer I hope I can learn new skills as a mediocre designer and possible a sub-par writer. I am very involved in school and spend most of my times attending events. I may not be able to help edit your story but I can definitely make a witty come-back when faced with an attitude.

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