Krystina Alabado’s family didn’t invent Toaster Strudel, but she still makes a pretty fetch Gretchen Wieners.
The actress joined the "Mean Girls" Broadway musical cast last month as one third of the Plastics.
"It was like a whirlwind. I feel like I haven’t quite processed it," says Alabado, who lives in upper Manhattan. The actress studied at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Arizona, and moved to the city 10 years ago to pursue her dream of making it on the big stage. She made her Broadway debut in 2010’s "American Idiot" and most recently appeared in Off-Broadway’s "This Ain’t No Disco." Now, she’s back at high school replacing Ashley Park as Regina George’s minion, Gretchen.
We caught up with the "Mean Girls" newbie to find out how she’s handling the clique in Tina Fey’s production.
Have the passionate "Mean Girls" fans surprised you? How do they react when you try to make fetch happen?
Oh my gosh. When the Plastics enter the stage, it’s so much fun for us. The audience erupts with applause and I could feel the support from everyone in the audience. They’ve been so kind to me; they know the character, they know the show.
Those iconic lines that are in the show, that’s one of my favorite parts about doing that — everyone knows about it. It always depends on the night, how many die-hard "Mean Girls" fans are there. So, I’m curious to see, at this point I’ve only done it three times, but as I go I’m curious to see the reaction. People love that line and "She doesn’t even go here." That one always gets a big applause.
Like you said, people know this character before the enter the theater. Are you putting your own spin on Gretchen?
It’s one of those balancing acts where you don’t want to mimic somebody, but you also don’t want to not give the credit that is due to both Lacey Chabert, who played her in the movie, and Ashley Park, who originated the role on Broadway. They are both incredible performers, actresses, comedians, so it’s a cool experience to take things from both of their performances and then make it my own. But it’s without pressure. I’m not going to purposely make it different, but I’m also not going to mimic. I’m finding my way through it and what works best for me. What’s been great about this specific team at "Mean Girls," is they’re allowing me that time to really find Gretchen myself.
Gretchen herself is a really fun character in the film, and stage adaptation. Is there a message she gives the audience that you’re proud to embody?
"What’s Wrong With Me?" The show is as the movie: Go, go, go. High energy. There’s a lot happening in this world created in front of you with Cady and the Plastics and "What’s Wrong With Me" is one of the few ballads in the show. It takes a breather because Gretchen always needs everyone to like her. Her brain works a million miles a minute. But this song is a reflection of who she is and how she changed herself to fit into her friend group. She should love herself more, which I think in high school is something I thought about a lot.
Does your high school experience compare to that of "Mean Girls?"
I got bullied a lot. And you want to be liked more than you want to like yourself, which even as adults, we struggle with that … I moved high schools in the middle, so that was an interesting plot point for me and I did not have a great experience. High school is hard. It is for a lot of kids. I was not met with a lot of warmth, and I was also kind of a nerd — drama kid, and I worked hard in school. That’s my experience, but it made me stronger. At that age I didn’t hate anyone for not liking me. I always just tried leading with niceness even if others didn’t. The drama department and my teacher Christina Veil, she was so amazing and pushed me and helped me have confidence on the stage.
How did you manage to find your rhythm with a cast that’s been together for a while now?
Being a replacement in Broadway is really interesting. I’ve done it once before in the 2011 Green Day musical "American Idiot." Each time you do it, it’s very different from starting a show and creating the character yourself. This specific time, I had three weeks of rehearsal where I was basically in the studio sometimes with the associate director, stage manager and dance captains. Those people would stand in and we’d run through the show. I spent two weeks acting as Gretchen with my stage manager being Regina [George]. The third week is when I started being incorporated with the rest of the company.