Local Arts

New ‘Mean Girls’ star Reneé Rapp on high school, role models and a hidden talent

Nineteen-year-old Reneé Rapp just earned a dream role. She will play Regina George in Broadway’s “Mean Girls.”

Tina Fey, who wrote the 2004 movie that the musical “Mean Girls” is based on, announced Rapp as the new Regina on NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday. Rapp will first play Regina from June 7-26, and then take the role full-time on Sept. 10.

The film stars Lindsay Lohan as Cady, who navigates the pitfalls of high school. Queen bee Regina George (played by Rachel McAdams in the film) heads up the powerful clique known as “The Plastics.”

The Broadway production launched last year and was nominated for 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

Rapp graduated from Charlotte’s Northwest School of the Arts in 2018. During her time there, she won the Charlotte-area Blumey Award, and later the national Jimmy Award. These awards are the high school equivalent of the Tonys and honor excellence in musical theater.

“We believe (Rapp) will be a force to be reckoned with as our new Regina George,” said “Mean Girls” producer Lorne Michaels in a statement, according to Broadwayworld.com.

The Observer got a chance to catch up with Rapp Thursday.

Q: How did your time at Northwest prepare you for where you are now?

A: I came to Northwest my junior year because I had heard so much about it from the Charlotte theater community. It put me on the trajectory to be where I am now.

I credit a lot of where I am today to my director Corey Mitchell. He was one of the first people at the school to believe in me. He told me if I worked really hard and stayed on my grind, then I could do it. Northwest was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life.

Charlotte’s Reneé Rapp will star as Regina George in Broadway “Mean Girls.” Jeremy Daniel

Q: When you were auditioning to be Regina, what was going through your head? Were you nervous?

A: I was really nervous... I’ve looked up to Tina Fey my entire life. Auditioning in front of people of that caliber was a huge, huge step coming out of high school.

The other part about it was that I’m not your average-sized, 115-pound girl. I’m totally okay with that. I love who I am, I love how I’m made. But I was nervous because I knew that was a big thing about who Regina was.

At the audition, I couldn’t have been more lucky to be in front of people who were so accepting and supportive, like (director/choreographer) Casey Nicholaw, Tina and (music director) Mary-Mitchell Campbell. They were just like, “Look, you are who you are. We are not looking for you to be this tiny little girl who Regina is supposed to be.”

Charlotte’s Reneé Rapp will star as Regina George in Broadway’s “Mean Girls.” Jeremy Daniel

Q: Do you think that says anything to girls who are growing up, and will look up to you as a role model?

A: It’s an honor to think about that. I think so. When you accept yourself, then it becomes easier for people around you to accept you. That’s crucial in the world we live in, especially in this industry.

Q: Where were you when you learned you were going to be Regina George?

A: I was with Tina and (producer) Lorne Michaels. We were at 30 Rock just sitting and talking. They said it oh so casually. At the time, it didn’t really register. I mean, I was sitting in front of living legends. After I left, I was like, “Oh. Oh. Oh! That’s pretty cool!”

Q: How did the Blumey and Jimmy Awards help you on the way to Broadway?

A: Oh my gosh, leaps and bounds. I wouldn’t be who I am without the Blumeys and the Jimmys. Not only the platform that the award shows gave me, but also the knowledge and the experience. The time that everyone working on it takes to help kids my age who aren’t sure how their career is going to start or where their career is going to go.

Q: In high school, was there any character in “Mean Girls” whom you related to most?

A: There is something about all of the female leads that is extremely relatable. There is a lot in Cady that everyone can relate to. Being the new one in the new group, you want to fit in. For Regina, her insecurity drives her to do things that are not so great all of the time. Really all she wants is to be accepted and accept herself.

High school can be a pretty scary time and people can be really, really mean. What’s on the outside is a reflection of the inside. On the inside, they just want to be loved and love the people around them. I think we all went through that.

Q: What have you been up to this year since graduating from Northwest?

A: I have been writing and recording my first album here in New York. That album is now tied up with a little bow. I’m ready to go, and we need to get the roll-out plans together. I was working on that, auditioning, and I did a reading of “Parade” back in December. And trying to get to Tina Fey.

Q: Last question, what is something about you that people may not know?

A: I played golf my seventh grade through sophomore year of high school. I started playing on the boys team because my middle school didn’t have a girls team. I auditioned, I mean tried out, and I made it.

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