Monday, August 18, 2008

The Kids Are Alright! - 13 - Musical Review

13 - Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre - Chester, CT - Previews begin on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Sept. 16th 2008 for an Oct. 5th Opening.
Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, Book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, Directed by Jeremy Sams, Choreographed by Christopher Gattelli

13 is a new musical about 13 year olds, starring 13 year olds (or around that), singing to a band who are all 13 year old (or around that) and the whole show is performed without a single adult on stage. Think of it as those Saturday morning shows (where adults are rarely in sight) but in musical format. But if you think this is another Disney High School Musical, it is and it isn't. It's closer to the documentary American Teen than any polished Hollywood movie but there is still a very after-school special feel to the show where everyone follows a label (the geek, the gossip, the jock etc) and it's still a very bright, very sunny, and very joyous delight of a show (much like HSM) and while it was conceived before HSM premiered and became the phenomena it is, I'm sure the producers are banking on stealing the same audience that made the Disney TV-movie such a hit.

Let's hope they do discover 13 because while the story itself is a little pedantic and cliched, the music, the energy, the choreography and the bright colour-coded sets are absolutely terrific, at least in the pre-Broadway incarnation I saw at Goodspeed in Connecticut earlier this summer. The cast of youthful hope is stellar, with most of the cast exceeding my expectations and sounding like pure Broadway professionals, except coming out of much smaller bodies. The young band (led by an adult offstage) is seen looking over the stage and plays the rock/pop songs with frenetic joy.

The young band and set of actors are already impressive enough, but even more impressive is the fact that they must perform the musical's music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, one of the newer batches of writers who write intelligent and complex musicals (with complex musical arrangements), and probably one that is stepping into the shoes of Stephen Sondheim (famous for writing the "smart" musicals like some of my faves, Company and Sweeney Todd). Jason Robert Brown usually writes intricate adult musicals including my last years favorite theatrical experience Parade(which is apparently coming to LA's Mark Taper Forum in Fall 2009 direct from the Donmar in London!) (about a framed Jewish man during a murder trial in early 20th Century Georgia) as well as The Last Five Years (about a doomed relationship only played both forwards from the man's point of view, and backwards from the female's). Light is he not known for. So it's fascinating and totally exciting that Jason Robert Brown has challenged himself into writing a new musical about the exuberance of youth and surviving the teen years.

The opening song "Thirteen" sets the tone in an elaborate introduction to the story, the cast of characters and all the teenage emotions and yearnings with some exciting choreography from Christopher Gattelli (South Pacific, Sunday in the Park with George). While I've heard complaints about the song, especially while out of context, I think it's one of the best new musical songs in a LONG time and is a great showcase for the energetic young cast led my Graham Phillips as Evan (at Goodspeed, 2 actors rotated the role and I got Graham Phillips, for Broadway, only Graham Phillips will be performing the role), our protagonist for the evening.

The story is basically about Evan, a Jewish New Yorker who moves to small town Indiana just as he's about to turn 13 years old, and he must make friends fast with the right kids to invite to his big Bar Mitzvah in a very un-Jewish town. He first befriends awkward neighbour Patrice (old soul Allie Trimm) and Archie (a superb Aaron Simon Gross) but they are basically geeks, so when the jock Brett (Eric M. Nelson) and his friends actually accept him, Evan must dump his new found friend in favour of the cool group.

Peppering the rest of the cast are standouts like Elizabeth Egan Gillies as the bitchy Lucy, the big voiced in a tiny body Al Calderon as Eddie, and the high spirited Caitlin Gann as Molly.

I believe 2 members of the Goodspeed cast have been replaced for the Broadway run (although I thought it was going to be Eric M. Nelson who had the weakest voice of the kids but fit the character well with his acting and presence). The show premiered in Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum in Dec. 2006 but the show has changed drastically apparently since then, with almost all new songs after dropping many of the originals, which included one of my faves "Being a Geek" which you can hear as part of a Medley here.

The overall story may not have enough to really sustain a whole show, but the onstage talent and the music does. I wrote on SOB's commentaries that "It's a simple script and nothing revolutionary or life changing (about a story about life changes) and it doesn't sustain the momentum that the opening song "Thirteen" sets off (seriously, probably one of those best songs in musical history imho) but JRB creates a great musical for families and kids to enjoy and for those who can still remember the joys (and terrors) of being 13." and I think it will make a great alternative for families so they aren't just limited to movie-turned-musicals and/or Disney stuff.

13 - Goodspeed's Norma Terris Theatre - Chester, CT - **** (4 stars out of 5)

Here's the Goodspeed Cast (pdf) and the Goodspeed Playbill (pdf) and more photos and videos below:

Here's the promo video of the abridged version of "Thirteen" from the musical 13:

Here's the cast of 13 at Goodspeed:


Anonymous said...

13 is by far one of the best new musicals on Broadway this season! This show is completely original (which is what has been lacking on broadway the past few years) and is performed brilliantly by a complete cast of teens my age! What a great idea! I'm so glad and so thankful that kids like me have a place on broadway now... that means so much to me! I have to say that this show is a MUST SEE for anyone visiting NYC or for that matter, anyone living in NYC! Out of 10 stars, I give it 13!

13fan-ian said...

13 is electrifing! It is basically as simple as that. The kids are just amazing actors and singers. I went with my family and we are now all fans. I was so inspired that i bought the book. And I have read it about 20 times. So if you want to go see a show that is just plain amazing then 13 is for you. I expect this show to win plently of tonys! So go get tickets now!

Anonymous said...

“No you’re not ready, not it’s not time yet, no it’s not right now, wait until you’re older.” Phrases I’m sure you heard time and time again when you were younger. Not this time. 13 The Musical, an amazing new show has broken this mold and thanks to them we’ve been able to welcome Broadway’s first all teen cast and band!

The story starts in New York City with Evan Goldman as he is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Unfortunately, his parents go through a bitter divorce and he is forced to move to the small town of Appleton, Indiana, a.k.a. the lamest place in the world. There, he meets his neighbor Patrice and they become friends. Once school starts Evan finds the need to do everything in his power to have the best Bar Mitzvah ever. So he leaves Patrice, the quirky, offbeat, and even geeky girl, for the cool crowd.

13 The Musical goes through all the highs and lows of becoming a teenager. Crushes, jealousy, gossip, friendships, enemies, drama, break-ups, make-ups, and even make-outs! This high-energy show is filled with talented actors and musicians and is a definite must see for anyone who has gone through or is planning on being 13.

Anonymous said...

Since 13 was only my second Broadway show that I had seen in my life, my expectations for it were very high. Thankfully, all of my expectations were fulfilled. 13 is not only a show with an all teenage cast, but a story, a journey, about the troubles that kids endure when they become teenagers.

Evan Goldman, who is preparing to have his Bar Mitzvah, is torn apart when he learns that his parents are getting a divorce, and he must move from lively New York City to "The Lamest Place In The World", Appleton, Indiana. Evan must choose between either being what he isn't and have all the "cool kids" attend his Bar Mitzvah, or being himself and having two really good, close friends.

13 is a riveting story about forgetting stereotypes and being your true self to gain real friends. "What It Means To Be A Friend" is an absolutely breathtaking song, not only because Allie has an unbeatable voice, but because the song expresses what a true friend really is and how they should always be there for you. I absolutely loved the cast (even being teenagers gave a wonderful performance) and the band, who without it, there would be no music for the amazing cast to sing to. Jason Robert Brown did a great job with turning this book into a dramatic, yet fun-filled Broadway hit!---Scott Friedman

Anonymous said...

13 is the best thing ever to hit Broadway!! With breath-taking music composed by Tony award winning composer Jason Robert Brown, and a cast and band all in the age range of 13-17, you are bound to be absolutely blown away! This show is about a 12 year old boy named Evan who just moved from NYC to Appleton, Indiana and is trying to get all the cool kid to come to his bar mitzvah, but while doing so, he loses his true friend Patrice. This show is absolutely phenomenal and it is very true about what happens when you are a teenager unlike of other shows and movies. I would highly reccomend this show to anyone and everyone!!! 13 is absolutely amazing and shows everyone that a group of kids can put up an amazing broadway show!

raykay123 said...

13 the musical, is the most outrageous show I have ever seen. It is truely amazing, and one of the best. It is about a 13, year old boy named Evan who is about to have his Bar Mitzvah and moves to the middle of no where, where no one is jewish. Since he is the new kid he is torn between a true friend and the popular kids. Through Evan's journey we are tought some of the problems we dont realize that 13 year olds go through, things you would not expect til high school. Any teenager would go crazy over this show because of how much it relates and how fun it is to just sit and watch. It makes you just want to get up and dance with them! Aaron Simon Gross is a truely amazing singer, for his age. With a cast of teenagers it is truely amazing to see that a kid can take on a job that adults have been working for so long, and just blow them out of the room. The whole cast is extremely talented. If you are interested, dont doubt it, go see it! Its worth every penny! - Rachel Kaufman

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