Broadway performer Lindsay Heather Pearce caught up with her fans at THTC to talk about her role as Janis Sarkisian in Mean Girls, her previous role as Elphaba in Wicked and more. Mean Girls comes to The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts from October 11-16.
Q. You are fresh off of Wicked where you were playing Elphaba, and people are obsessed with your portrayal of her. What has that transition been like from Elphaba to Janis?
Lindsay Heather Pearce (LHP): We now call it the Elphaba-to-Janis pipeline because the Janis before me was the incredible Mary Kate Morrissey, who was Elphaba on the second national tour. I don’t think there’s a lot of distance between the two. I think that they’re pretty similar in creed and energy. The only thing is, Elphaba would never trick her best friend into ruining someone else’s life; that’s a bit of a Glinda move. Besides that, they’re both outspoken, artistic, driven and loyal, maybe to a fault. They are great and just the best characters ever.
I think Elphaba is no stranger to being the art freak, and Janis is no stranger to being the froggy, ferny cabbage. I think she gets it. There’s a different kind of maturity in Elphaba that I don’t think Janis has reached yet, but that means Janis is just having the most fun all the time because all bets are off when that wig and those boots go on. It is the best.
Q. Janis is such an iconic character. What is the Mean Girls story about?
LHP: Mean Girls is about a junior class of students in Chicago at a school called North Shore High. Our lead character is Cady Heron, and she is a transferred homeschool student. She was being homeschool by her parents in Africa studying wildlife. It follows her journey of entering into the jungle that is high school without any social skills. She is befriended by two very quirky characters named Damian and Janis. Damian is the musical theater freak, Janis is the art freak and together they are art freaks. We then meet the Plastics, the group of the most popular girls in school led by the queen bee, Regina George. We find out that Janis and Regina have a dark past together. Eventually these two make like an alliance with Cady and vow to take down Regina George. Mean Girls is about what happens when you dethrone a queen and another queen takes her place, how that happens and how quickly the hierarchy of high school can shift.
I have always loved the movie, which came out on my birthday in 2004. I have a distinct memory of going to see it, and I just loved Janis. I loved the hair in the film with her clips and her dark hair, her skirts, her Converse and her mesh-like gloves. I loved her and that was who I wanted to be when I was young. I just wanted to live loud, be 100% myself and not care, and I didn’t have the courage to do so. When the musical came out, I thought the music was so fun. While I was still in Wicked, an audition came through my pipeline in mid-February for Janis. I did a couple auditions, and I didn’t want to let myself hope for it because sometimes you feel like you jinx yourself. I’ll never forget, I was about to head to The Gershwin Theatre to go do a show and my agent called me to let me know that I booked the tour. She was like, “Do you want to go on tour with Mean Girls?” and I was like, “Stop it! Get out of here!” which is how she broke the Wicked news to me, as well. When I found out I booked Wicked in January 2020, she was like, “How do you feel about moving to New York to play Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway?” I was like, “I will crash this car right now if you keep messing with me like that.” I think it was just the best thing to do after doing a show like Wicked. I was in a working mindset and I don’t think these two characters are very far removed from one another. It feels kind of like a gentle ease out of Elphaba into something slightly different, but still kind of in the same wheelhouse, so it’s fun.
Q. Between the movie and musical, what are some of the key differences? I know that social media is one.
LHP: The movie came out in a time when we still just had flip phones. There is a whole scene in the film where a call takes place on handheld landlines, which just seems archaic now. It’s wild because that was only about 20 years ago. The movie was funny, tastefully ridiculous, huge, out-there and almost toeing-the-line, but not quite out-of-line. The musical does the same thing, but in a more modern sense. You get to know Janis and Damian a little bit more in the musical. Jans and Damian are the narrators of the musical whereas in the movie, Cady is the narrator. I love that they are welcoming in the freshmen; you, as the audience, are freshmen coming into the theatre. We do the entire show, and then at the very end, we give them one last piece of advice before the final number. It’s just a really great way to bookend the show, and I think you just get a little more opportunity to zoom in on characters like Regina and you get to know her a little bit more. The show really humanizes a lot of characters that don’t get a lot of time that they would normally get. I think the film is unbelievable, but I feel like you are with Cady during the entire film, whereas in the musical you get to know Gretchen, Karen and Regina and you fall in love with these people. There are definitely villains, but everyone’s mean. That’s the thing, it’s not just the plastics. You find out that mean is a lot of colors. We still have Glen Coco, obviously. You can’t do it without Glen Coco. We’ve got Trang Pak, “crying girl in the auditorium,” Shane Oman, Coach Carr and Mrs. Norbury. We have all the great characters that are still there, but we also get the added bonus of a full ensemble. In the film, you get a lot of interviews with these different characters being like, “Regina George wore army pants and flip flops, so I wore army pants and flip flops.” We have moments like that, but I’ve never seen an ensemble do what this ensemble does with their dancing and their acrobatics. I think it’s a real look into how fun and terrifying high school can be. Those are the major differences I would say.
Don’t miss your chance to see The Plastics take over North Shore High School and The Hanover Theatre October 11-16, 2022