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Broadway Q&A: Ashley Park of ‘Mean Girls’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Ashley Park reveals why playing Gretchen in ‘Mean Girls’ is like senior year

Ashley Park originated the part of Gretchen Wieners in the hit Broadway musical Mean Girls. She was nominated for the Tony, Drama League, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Chita Rivera awards for her multi-layered portrayal of the Plastics clique member. Now playing at the August Wilson Theatre, Mean Girls features a book by Tina Fey, which is based on her screenplay for the hit film. On Broadway, Park also starred as Tuptim in The King and I. She has also appeared in Sunday in the Park with George and Mamma Mia! Last year, Park won a Lucille Lortel Award for playing Mwe in KPOP

Ashley Park as Gretchen Wieners in ‘Mean Girls’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

Ashley Park as Gretchen Wieners in ‘Mean Girls’ (Photo: Joan Marcus)

What do you love about doing Mean Girls
Ashley Park
: Every night, it is the most joyful show. I enjoy feeling the energy on stage. I feel so blessed to be in the musical, especially with this creative and writing team. They wanted to infuse Gretchen with as much honesty as possible. I really love the layers that we found with her. She is a little bit the every woman. Not everyone is the protagonist or the villain, but everyone has a little bit of Gretchen in them. That is what makes her such a cool character. 

Do you remember the first Broadway show you ever saw? 
: I survived cancer in high school and was a Make A Wish kid. So my wish was to come to New York and watch a Broadway show.  I had never been to one. But I thought that maybe performing was something I wanted to do. So the summer before my senior year of high school, my family and I were brought to New York and stayed in a hotel. We saw The Lion King, Spring Awakening, A Chorus Line and Wicked. I was sold. It’s not until you can tangibly be around something that you discover how accessible it is. I realized it was something that I could manifest for myself. That was a big deal.

What was first Broadway show you were in?
: Mamma Mia! I had just graduated from college at the University of Michigan. It’s really cool that I started my Broadway experience in the ensemble and as an understudy. I believe it is really important that I started there. Now I feel so connected to my ensemble in every show. I think of that experience as my freshman year. My sophomore year was The King and I. My junior year was Sunday in the Park With George. And Mean Girls feels a bit like my senior. Not that I’m graduating from Broadway. But just in terms of what I’m learning. The cool thing about senior year of college is you are established family by that point. And I truly feel like I have a really solid Broadway family with this show.

Are there a few scenes in Mean Girls that you particularly adore? 
: The whole second half of act one goes by like a train. I love that, because it really feels like everyone is in their element. We have done enough of the exposition. Also, people are on board for the musical by that point. They are not thinking, “Where is the stuff in the movie?” Everyone is game for the musical. It’s really, really fun.  

I love the transition from Africa to the high school. It’s so explosive. You get to see all of the kids at once. And the choreography is so incredible. The screens open up. Also, one reason that I love singing “What’s Wrong With Me?” is that it is the first time in the show where everything slows down. It is something that is not from the movie. You can feel the entire audience lean in, like this might surprise us in ways we didn’t expect. It’s really fun to have that kind of moment. 

How do you wind down after your show? 
: It’s easier in this show than in The King and I when I was playing Tuptim, I had a really hard time with that. I would carry Tuptim around with me. She was also a loner in the show. She was in agony the whole time, and she ends the show by getting whipped and (she) dies. So I had a harder time with that. My ENT actually said, “I think this is going to sound corny, but at the end of the night, you have to go to your dressing room, get your wig off, and say ‘Goodbye, Tuptim, Hello Ashley,’ three times.” And that really helped. But on this show I'm onstage with my friends. I’m dancing and singing, so it's an easier transition to get back to me. 

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in January 2019.


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