When the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of Mean Girls announced preliminary casting for its world premiere at Washington, D.C.’s National Theatre, audiences learned the Plastics would be played by Broadway’s Taylor Louderman (Kinky Boots, Bring It On), Ashley Park (The King & I), and Kate Rockwell (Bring It On). In the role of homeschool transplant student Cady Heron is Erika Henningsen. Playbill did some digging to uncover seven things you should know about the woman originating the role of the mathlete turned popular queen turned “actual human being.”
1. She is the youngest actor to play Fantine on Broadway.
Henningsen graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and took on the role of Fantine in March 2015. Her Broadway debut came just in the nick of time. "I was about to go file for unemployment, I had the papers on my bedside table, I was ready to go, and I got a call from my agent, and he just said, 'What are you doing right now?' And, I was like, 'Well, I'm getting my unemployment in order,' and he goes, 'You're going to be Fantine on Broadway.' I immediately started crying," Henningsen told Playbill in a 2015 interview.
2. This isn’t her first world-premiere production.
Henningsen appeared in the world premiere of Sheryl Crow’s musical Diner at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia. Based on the 1982 film of the same name, the 1950s-set story follows six friends enjoying the end of their adolescence. The actor calls Crow “a genius” and a review by Variety noted Henningsen’s song "Tear Down This House” as a standout, and called the performer “the ensemble’s strongest female voice.”
3. She’s performed high-profile concert gigs.
Of course, Henningsen has played stages like Feinstein’s/54 Below, but she has also performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center and with the New York Philharmonic. She also played Kim Ravenel in the NY Philharmonic’s presentation of Show Boat, which aired on PBS in the fall of 2015. (Watch it here.)
4. She won an Actors' Equity Award for her promising talent.
After graduating from the University of Michigan, Henningsen was the 2014 recipient of the Alan Eisenberg Actors' Equity Association Award. The award recognized her potential and granted her a $5,000 prize to support her career.
5. She and Angela Lansbury have played the same role.
In a workshop fort Disney Theatricals, Henningsen played Eglantine Price in the workshop of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the role played by Lansbury in the movie. “Being one of the first actors to speak the dialogue aloud, having input on character development — all of this innovation and freedom was new territory for me,” she told Equity.
6. Another landmark musical about women put Henningsen on the musical theatre path.
At the age of 14, Henningsen was cast in a regional production of Grey Gardens. In a previous interview she told Equity, “It was during this process that I realized being an actor doesn’t mean just singing and dancing, but getting to communicate ideas, concepts and stories that the world needs to hear.” Her first paid gig was as Penny Pingleton in a production of Hairspray when she was 17.
7. Her shower song is from Anastasia.
During a Feinstein’s/54 Below concert, Henningsen admitted she didn’t know what to sing at first, so she chose her “shower song.” Turns out, Henningsen loves the music by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and sang the film’s (now the stage show’s) anthem “Journey to the Past.” Watch her rendition here.