Taylor Louderman Is the Queen Bee of Comedy in ‘Mean Girls’
Before Taylor Louderman power poses on the lunch table in “Mean Girls” on Broadway, she slaps herself across the face. After all, as the brazenly confident Regina George, Louderman needs to appear almost idol-like in that moment, singing about how she is a “massive deal.” So a quick slap “knocks the nerves out.”
However, at our rainy afternoon photo shoot, Louderman seems just as self-assured, albeit much friendlier, as her onstage persona. She happily throws popcorn at the photographer, fiddles with a stick of cotton candy, and plays with the countless rotary phones peppered around Haswell Green’s, embracing her oddball side.
“I enjoy comedy. I really, really love being a weirdo. I think I’m more of an idiot in real life than a Regina George or anything like that,” she says, adding that “Mean Girls” has given her the opportunity to flex her comedy muscles more. “I didn’t know that my silliness was funny. I think it’s just learning about yourself and who you are.”
That realization came when she was in “Kinky Boots” (that’s also where the slapping ritual started), as lovelorn factory worker Lauren. Prior to joining the cast of the Tony Award-winning show, Louderman had been let go from a job and was struggling with finding her place in the industry.
“That really broke my heart, and so I was just really in a weird place,” she says. “But ‘Kinky Boots’ allowed me to just fall back in love with the art of it all, and that’s where I learned I can be funny.”
But going in front of comedy goddess Tina Fey in her “Mean Girls” audition was another daunting challenge. “As soon as she threw me a laugh, whether she meant it or not, I felt good,” she remembers.
After performing with the show in the workshop and at the world premiere in Washington DC, Louderman has earned her first Tony Award nomination as the arch-villainess of North Shore High School in the musical adaptation, penned by Fey, her husband Jeff Richmond, and Nell Benjamin.
Stepping into an iconic role, portrayed by Rachel McAdams in the film, was no easy task, and Louderman says she’s a huge fan of McAdams “I knew I had big shoes to fill, and I didn’t take that lightly,” she said. “I didn’t want to try to copy her. I think any time we try to be someone we’re not, you’re not going to succeed. So I just wanted to pull the things out of myself that worked.”
One thing that she’s brought to the role is a sense of quietness in the character’s power. Whereas many might assume Regina would be big and broad onstage, Louderman was inspired by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” and the way the character uses her influence in a subtle way to make people come to her. Louderman wanted to remove any evidence of effort, and she sings her first lyric, “My name is Regina George,” in an almost breathy, sultry whisper, making the audience lean in and listen.
While she’s a “massive deal” on Broadway, back home, she’s just the “kid from around the block.” She grew up in small-town Bourbon, Missouri, obsessed with Shirley Temple movies and “Annie.” When the local theater put on a production, she walked into the audition with all the lyrics memorized. She landed the part. “I fell in love with it,” she says.
With four younger sisters, she notes that she might have been kind of a Regina at home. “I imagine that’s exactly why I am able to step into a mean girl shoe, because I definitely bossed them around!” she says with a laugh. “I was the director, performer, and producer of all of our self-produced productions.”
In high school, she would commute into St. Louis to perform in shows, missing homecoming and football games. She also moved schools after her sophomore year, so she has some insight into Cady’s journey in “Mean Girls” as well. “You don’t have a lot of friends when you switch schools,” she says. “I got to step in a lot of different shoes because of that.”
She went to study musical theater at University of Michigan, but she was cast in “Bring It On: The Musical” her sophomore year and left school to pursue theater professionally. “I couldn’t pass it up,” Louderman says of the opportunity.
After “Bring It On” and “Kinky Boots,” “Mean Girls” has solidified her as a bona-fide Broadway star, even though she’s still playing high schoolers onstage. “I can’t graduate!” she says with a laugh. “I can’t complain about that because that’s a good problem to have.”
Two of her younger sisters are still in high school, and she can ask them about what high school’s like today, as the musical has been updated from the 2004 film. “High school’s a tough time, and I think we can all say we’ve learned a lot since then,” she says. “I feel like there’s a lot I would do differently if I knew then what I know now.”
She definitely wouldn’t have acted like Regina, but she does note that she sympathizes with Regina’s plight, even if her intentions and methods are not always honorable.
“In high school, we are too young to really understand or deal with stress,” she says. “Regina is a little bit aware of what she’s doing, but she thinks for the long run, it’s worth it. And I would hope that the audience can leave at the end of the show feeling like there’s hope there, that she’s going to figure it out, and learn that we’re safer and we’re happier when we all just support each other.”
While many consider her the show’s villain, Louderman loves that she’s able to humanize the character at the end of the show and thinks the story is ultimately uplifting.
“What I love about the message of our show is it’s empowering young people and women to feel their worth and own their power,” she says. “Even if it means taking responsibility for your negative actions, too. My character tells Cady, ‘Don’t apologize for things that aren’t your fault.’ And I think women do that a lot. I love that we are awakening the idea that we can have powerful women that don’t put each other down.”