DETROIT – Lindsay Heather Pearce is North Shore High’s newest student, taking on the role of Janis in Mean Girls the musical. After her last show on Broadway in Wicked as the leading green lady Elphaba, Pearce was on a flight the next day to finish rehearsals for the Mean Girls national tour. One week later, she was on stage in South Carolina performing as Janis.
Luckily, her predecessor was also another former Elphaba. We chat with the former Glee star on how she was able to quickly go from green in Wicked to hanging out with the pink Plastics in Mean Girls.
Do you remember watching Mean Girls for the first time? What did it mean to you?
It came out on my 13th birthday. I was still in middle school and I was with my mom and a couple of girlfriends of mine. We went and we laughed and laughed. We absolutely loved it. I’d never seen anything that felt like a heightened version of high school. I wasn’t in high school yet, so I romanticized that high school would be like this film. I mean, it went into the zeitgeist, you know? People still to this day say lines like, “She doesn’t even go here.” It’s just so iconic.
You performed a version of “I’d Rather Be Me” for a virtual charity two years ago and now you get to perform it every night. What is that like?
It’s phenomenal. It’s one of my favorite songs in the show and it’s just so well written. It’s different to sing it by yourself in a concert setting. But when you sing it in the context of the show, you have all of the female ensemble, who we call the “fetch” ensemble, and you’re just surrounded by this empowered energy. It’s so fun and the audience loves it because I think everybody relates to what Janis is talking about in the song. And it’s fun to sing, it’s like a rock anthem where I’m getting carried around on the shoulders of these people. You just feel like a total piece of royalty.
So Elphaba and Janis are both outcasts. Do you think anything you learned from playing Elphaba translated to how you play Janis?
So our previous Janis here on the tour (Mary Kate Morrissey) was also a former Elphaba. We call it the Elphaba to Janis pipeline.
I was thinking you would call it Jelphaba or something.
Honey, I think you just coined it.
I don’t think they’re dissimilar in the “fight for what’s right” mentality. They’re activists in their own right. I think they thrive off being outcasts. And they don’t choose it, it’s done to them. I do think they’re different in that I don’t think Elphaba would do anything that Janis does in the show. Elphaba wouldn’t trick a friend into hurting another person. But their mentality and that kind of weird, artsy energy is definitely Elphaba. I’m able to play Janis well because I played Elphaba.
What was the transition period like between Wicked and Mean Girls?
I was performing my last week as Elphaba on Broadway in the evenings and I was rehearsing Janis during the day. I’d do a couple of hours of rehearsal, have a dinner break and then perform at night. It was definitely hard. On top of it, it was my last week so there’s emotions.
My last performance was a single performance day and the next day I was on a plane to go to the tour.
On top of closing my run on Wicked, and all the emotions that already came with that experience, I was also packing my apartment, trying to get my affairs in order essentially before I left the city. Then I got to Greenville, South Carolina and went to sleep Monday night, rehearsed Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and had my show put-in on Friday. I started performing in the show the next Tuesday. My last Elphaba show was on May 22, my first Janis show was May 31. Very fast.
What was it like performing with the Mean Girls cast for the first time?
Their energy is just unbelievable, they were so welcoming. They had to say goodbye to the original Janis on the tour who created the role on the road with them. I can only imagine how affecting that would be to say goodbye to someone who you’ve been working with for two and a half years. So coming in and them treating me as if I’d always been there was extremely gracious, compassionate and considerate. It’s a very special place to work a thousand times over.
How would you describe your take on Janis?
I wanted to be a Janis in high school, I was really into emo music. I was a weird, artsy kid, you know? I wanted tattoos and I wanted to paint my clothes. I really identified with that underground grunge thing. I knew if I saw Janis in the hallway, I would have been like, “she’s so cool.”
But my Janis is goof ball because I’m a goof ball. When you’re playing someone as iconic as Elphaba, you hold yourself a certain way and speak a certain way. It’s very Shakespearean. Whereas Janis is a real person and this is a show set in 2019. So getting to wear Doc Martens and a pair of shorts, or this really cool leather jacket.
I’m playing her joyfully because I feel like I get to really be that kid I always wanted to be in this show. It’s really fun to release that inner child and just let her run rampant throughout the theater because she’s wild. I’m doing things with my body where I’m like why am I doing high kicks in the middle of this song? Because I’m just so overjoyed to be here, it’s great.
From one Jelphaba to another Jelphaba, what advice did Mary Kate Morrissey offer you?
Anyone who’s ever played Elphaba, we call it the Green Girl Sisterhood and we always say we’re comparing war stories because it’s such an experience to play. It’s not just the songs or how hard the role is, it’s the makeup, the hours, and the discipline to make it happen. It was nice knowing that the person I was taking over knew what I had just been through.
Her big thing was that you don’t have to stress as much in this role. She was like, “I can’t wait for you to just breathe, you’re going to have a lot of fun.” And she had just come into the tour after her time at Wicked and she was like, “this show really healed me. I’m excited to see what it does for you where you just to play now.”
What should Detroiters look out for in Mean Girls?
If you’re coming to see the show in Detroit, watch these ensemble members dance their sweet little butts off. Oh my god, they never stop. Even scenes where they’re not really singing or dancing – they’re in the back doing lifts, kicks and tapping. Everyone’s dancing on tables, jumping up and down. It’s Casey Nicholaw (director and choreographer of Mean Girls), he’s a genius.
These performers are an incredible breed of human being. Especially because my character doesn’t really dance at all. I’m like a “park and bark,” I get to come around in these cool outfits, say cool lines and sing cool songs. The work that I do in this is not anywhere near what these ensemble and principle members do. It’s wild what they can put their bodies and voices through.
Mean Girls is now playing at the Fisher Theatre through June 19th. For schedule and tickets, visit BroadwayinDetroit.com.