Is it just me, or were people talking about the SAG Awards more than usual this year? I’m all for the Screen Actor’s Guild as an institution, but I don’t really give a damn about the big awards shows, much less the small ones. My carefully cultivated web bubble was punctured last night by aimless jabber about who was wearing what at SAG. Perhaps this is a sign of cosmic upheaval in Hollywood—perhaps it’s because I started following lifetime achievement award-winner Dick Van Dyke. (Yep, he’s alive, he’s a friend of dolphins, and he’s married to a woman who hadn’t been born when his show went off the air. Way to go, Dick!)
Among the SAG-chatter came one compelling tidbit: Tina Fey’s long-rumored Mean Girls musical is, apparently, nearly a sure thing.
During an interview with E! News on the red carpet of tonight’s Screen Actor’s Guild Awards, Tina Fey announced some big, breaking news to host Giuliana Rancic: she is nearing a deal with Paramount Pictures to develop a musical based upon her hit movie, MEAN GIRLS.
“Before I let you go, ‘Mean Girls The Musical?’ Is that real?”, questioned Rancic.
“I would love to,” replied Fey. “I’m trying to develop it actually with my husband who does all the music for ’30 Rock.’ I think Paramount’s on board. Yeah.”
When Rancic compared cat-fighting American Idol judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj to characters in the film, Fey joked, “Maybe she [Mariah Carey] can play Amy Poehler’s part in the musical!”
Man, red carpet interviews are dumb! What seems pointless when spoken out loud is positively mind-numbing in print. “I think Paramount’s on board. Yeah.” is an early candidate for curious quote of the year. Just what does that “Yeah” mean? Let’s take out our English Major hats, and get our close-reading on.
“Yeah” is the kind of thing journalists are kind enough to pretend people don’t say. Along with “kinda,” “sorta” and “Um um um [hacking cough sound],” “yeah” is conversational jetsam—an unnecessary tidbit that a writer is more than happy to cast overboard. So why did this Yeah stay? For one thing, it helped the “BWW News Desk” pad out its word count—a task completed with a five paragraph summary of Tina Fey’s career-to-date. More importantly, it clues the reader in on the fact that Tina Fey did not care about the question. That “yeah” says, “I could say more about this, but wouldn’t it be better for the cosmos as a whole if this interview died now?”
Whether or not that’s what Fey meant, it’s the right attitude. Broadway musicals are a fragile thing, the sort of delicate creature that can survive no more than a handful of imaginary investors. Financing a movie is no easy thing, and getting a project greenlit can be a nightmarish journey, but when a studio wants something to happen, it will find a way. Fey is negotiation with Paramount to pay for her musical baby, but as I’m sure she knows, it will not be a sure thing until the first curtain rises. On Broadway, financing can disappear in the blink of an eye, because giving money to a play was probably not a very good idea in the first place. Let the money man realize that, and the project will never reach the stage.
The real question, one that’s unanswerable until the money problem is sorted, is why Tina “Yeah.” Fey thinks that making her Mean Girls sing is a good idea. Putting a story on Broadway has a way of ironing out the rough edges, and that film’s rough edges are its chief joys. Fey’s original script for the movie was much meaner—a true Heathers for the millennial set—and I’ve always wanted to read that first draft. To make it Broadway safe, I fear that the venom will have to be fully sucked out. Take the mean out of Mean Girls, and well, we’re left with Girls. Nobody wants to watch a musical of that.