Arts / Performing Arts

Mean Girls Is Having a Major Texas Moment — How a Lone Star State Theatre Kid Embraced the Drama

The Hit Broadway Show Still Resonates Even With the Nicest Mean Girls Of Them All

BY // 05.06.22

Get ready for a hot Mean Girls summer, Texas, because the tour for the smash Broadway musical just landed in Dallas. In a few months, the show based on the iconic movie Tina Fey wrote will make its way to almost every major Lone Star State city. Including Fort Worth in July and San Antonio, Austin and Houston in August. (Sorry El Paso.) 

The tour will also become the ultimate homecoming for one lead actress. Texas’ own Jasmine Rogers plays the Fetch-happening Gretchen Wieners. The Texas native, turned New York actress, just joined the cast and talked to PaperCity about how growing up as a Texas musical theater kid opened Broadway doors and helped her become the nicest mean girl of them all. 

While this will be Rogers first national touring show, when Mean Girls reaches Houston, this won’t be the first time she’s danced and sang on the Hobby Center stage. In 2017, while Rogers attended Stephen F. Austin High School in Fort Bend (outside of Houston), she won the Tommy Tune Award for best lead actress as the Witch in the school’s production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. 

Rogers says winning a Tommy Tune — the Theatre Under the Stars created awards for Houston area high school musical theater students — became the first step in a theater journey to Broadway and now back again. 

Winning Best Leading Actress made Rogers realize that becoming a theater artist was something she could do. 

“Everyone was so excited for me, and obviously that feels great, but it was so reassuring that I had something worth sharing,” she tells PaperCity.

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The award also gave Rogers the opportunity to compete in New York at the national level for the Jimmy Awards, the National High School Musical Theatre Awards. 

Sometimes described as a kind of musical theater boot camp for students who have won regional and state awards, the week long program allows theater kids to hone their triple threat crafts and work together to put on a show for the Broadway community, insiders and fans.

“The exposer you can get from that is amazing,” Rogers says of the Jimmy’s, where she earned a finalist place. “I didn’t end up winning, but the very next day I was in my first Broadway audition. It was insane.

“From there on I would get emails to come audition for this or that. And this was before I even had an agent. I really put me on the map. In a way I couldn’t have done on my own.”

2017 Tommy Tune Awards/Jasmine Rogers
Winning a TUTS Tommy Tune Award for best actress in high school set Jasmine Rogers on the road to Broadway. 

Rogers went back to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music for two years before diving into her acting career full time. Along the way, she did see Mean Girls on Broadway and even auditioned for the Gretchen role at one point. She says she grew up with the original film and became an even bigger fan of the musical with book from Tina Fey, music from Jeff Richmond and lyrics from Nell Benjamin. 

In her own career, Rogers had several early successes including originating a role in the new musical The Wanderer, but then COVID hit and shut down theater everywhere. 

“I was living in my apartment by myself going stir crazy,” Rogers says. “It was hard because I felt I had started to get the momentum and people were starting to know who I was but then it all just stopped.”

Rogers describes becoming circumspect on the impact of the pandemic on the theater community. 

“When you’re an actor, I feel we have this habit that if we’re not working we think our self worth is less, which isn’t the case obviously,” she says. “But especially during COVID, a lot of us felt so useless because we couldn’t do the thing that we loved safely.” 

For several months, Rogers went home to Texas and her family, who lives in Sugar Land, but returned to New York to continue auditioning for roles, including the Mean Girls tour. 

Becoming a Mean Girl

“The timing was just never right,” Rogers says of her first Mean Girls auditions. “I just assumed that it wasn’t for me, even though I had so much fun doing it.

“All of a sudden the tour was looking for replacements. I went but I thought, ‘They’ve seen me for this so many times. Either they want me or they don’t want me.’ ” 

Though Jasmine Rogers didn’t think she did her best work during the audition, “a week later I found out that I did (get a part). It was so crazy,” she says. 

At one point, Rogers had auditioned for the queen of North Shore High, Regina, but realized she had more affinity for support mean girl Gretchen, who just wants to make her chosen word “Fetch” happen. 

“What I love about Gretchen is that she’s part of the comic relief, but there’s so much going on in that poor girl’s head all the time,” Rogers says. “She’s so insecure and so worried about they way she presents, but she also has no filter. She can’t keep it inside.

“Everything she does and says has negative repercussions. She just can’t seem to get it right.”

Mean Girls takes a comic anthropological look at high school cliques. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
Mean Girls takes a comic anthropological look at high school cliques. (Photo by Joan Marcus) 

Rogers says she thinks even through Gretchen is a mean girl, audiences sympathize with her because most women remember their teen years “trying to fit in so badly.” 

“It’s crazy because she’s in the It-Girl group, but she still doesn’t think she’s good enough,” Rogers says. “It breaks my heart. But I’ve been there.” 

As Gretchen, Rogers gets one of the best comic, yet introspective solos in the entire Mean Girls show with “What’s Wrong With Me?”

“It’s sad but the lyrics are hilarious,” she notes. There’s something so heartbreaking about it.”

Rogers tries to find a balance in that song between the comedy and “honesty.” 

As for her own high school trials as a theater, chorus and sports kid, Rogers says she’s had her own struggles. 

“I will just say that I’ve had my experience with mean girls,” she tells PaperCity. “I think a lot of us have. I’ve even had my moment where I think I was a mean girl. That’s kind of what this show is about.

“It’s so much deeper than these girls just being mean. They’ve got their own internal battles with themselves.”

Mean Girls acts as a kind of warning that anyone can become a mean girl if they let their own insecurities lead them into bullying others. 

“That’s kind of the morale of the story,” Jasmine Rogers says. “You can be a mean girl, but what’s the point? I’ve definitely had my experience with girls like that.

“Luckily you come out on the other side. You grow from it and learn from it. But nothing as crazy as what goes on in North Shore High.” 

Mean Girls runs at Music Hall at Fair Park in Dallas through May 15, then hits Fort Worth’s Broadway at the Bass on July 26, Bass Concert Hall in Austin on August 2, San Antonio’s Majestic Theatre on August 9 and Houston’s Hobby Center from August 16 through 21.

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