This is an energetic and joyous production of Jason Robert Brown’s 13 (Musical). The entire cast and band consists of teenagers. The production was made possible thanks to the aspiring young actors and the British Theatre Academy that offers them the opportunity to show their talents in front of critics, members of the public, family and friends.
This production was scheduled for one night performance at the 950-seat capacity Cadogan concert hall in Sloane Terrace. Due to Covid-19 restrictions were in place, limiting the number of attendees. Despite all the restrictions, the audience responded enthusiastically, providing the young performers the applause they were hoping for.
The number 13 means different things in different cultures. When a Jewish boy is approaching that age, the transition from child- to manhood is formally celebrated. The adolescent has to stand in the synagogue and read biblical scriptures in Hebrew, in front of the congregation, followed afterwards by a large party for family and friends. In this musical there is nothing of the meaning of the Bar Mitzvah, but only the notion of the desire to have all his new friends at the party. It may be appropriate to point out at this point that when the Bar Mitzvah boy, Evan, picks up his prayer shawl and head cover, he takes them off the floor from under a chair and at the end of that scene he takes them off again and literally tosses them back onto the floor. I would have thought that with appropriate direction, such an insensitive gesture would have been avoided.
The storyline is simple and formulaic, and the characters are stereotyped with a touch of individuality inspired by some of the performers. The lyrics pull the narrative together and help to generate the necessary mild dramatic tension that keeps the audience engaged over the one hour and 40 minutes of the performance.
Evan Goldman (Edward Flynn-Haddon) is both lead character and narrator. His parents separate and he and his mother move from Manhattan to the dull town of Appleton, Indiana. His Bar Mitzvah is looming, and he is desperate to establish his status among his new peers to secure their attendance at his Bar Mitzvah. Complications arise when he learns that his best friend, Patrice, well performed by Ivy Pratt, is the least popular girl. It is made clear if she were invited, they would not turn up. The characters include the witty Archie, performed by Ethan Quinn, who has a degenerative neuromuscular disorder and walks with crutches. Quinn’s performance subtly tease out humour and sarcasm.
Brett Sampson (Samuel Menhinick) fancies Kendra (Rebecca Nardin) and so does the handicapped Archie. Lucy Lucy, (Zoe Forward) fancies Brett. Jealousy, teenagers’ burgeoning hormones, loyalty and rivalry are all cooked in the caldron of the show in 18 musical numbers. It is a pity that the instrumental music often overpowered the vocalists and drowned their singing.
The overall performances were lively and endearing. Flynn-Haddon’s Evan opened hesitantly, mirroring the character’s state of mind in the new and totally unfamiliar location. Forward’s Lucy was bitchy and utterly convincing.
In the large ensembles of both teams and the ensemble’s performances of dancers, there were some superb performers that, given the opportunity, they will become household names in tomorrow’s musicals.
Credit must be given to Corin Miller’s delightful choreography that was executed without a hitch.
- Music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
- Book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn
- Director: Dean Johnson
- Choreographer: Corin Miller
- Wardrobe: Linda Rees / Tessa Stephens
- Leading Performers: Edward Flynn-Haddon, Ivy Pratt, Samuel Menhinick, Time Akinyosade, Joe Millington, Rebecca Nardin, Ethan Quinn, Zoe Forward, Poppy Austin, May-Tian Gordon. Logan Robinson, Ananya Kailasam, Henry Littlle.
- Cadogan Hall, London
- Photo credit: Eliza Wilmot
- Time: 7.30 pm