13 The musical at the Ambassadors Theatre, is a coming-of-age musical that follows a young boy named Evan Goldman who is trying to fit in. Evan coming from New York, is juggling his parents divorce with playground politics as the new kid in the new town of Indiana. The story is one that we are all familiar with, an exploration of the school status quo and who you have to be to climb from a Geek to a Jock. It touches on the subject of body image, and stereotypes in a comedic way with blunt humour at times. Even though the production itself is clearly targeted at teens and preteens, there are several moments that speak to older generations, the scripting is done so cleverly that there are so many layers to what is being said and what that means – the themes and characters are timeless and will always be relevant because everyone goes through this stage in life.
Tom Paris’s set design is simple, using frames and placards to tell the audience the location of the narrative, it also frames the performers aesthetically, giving a comic book presentation. The costume supports this, the cast are all in contemporary street style that relates to their position in the social ladder, which makes it easy to identify character, personality traits and interests.
The ensemble is incredible in terms of delivering the comedy, there is respect for the way in which lines should be paced, they seamlessly go between dialogue and musical numbers with clean transitions and carry a high energy throughout. There is not a person you can single out as the best performer, they all complement each other and prove their vocal ability. Milo Panni plays the newcomer convincingly, disillusioned to what is right and wrong by this quest to fit in instead of being himself. Ethan Quinn played the Archie, a kid with special needs and takes advantage of the situation to scheme his way through to the hearts of the audience. His delivery of punchlines and physicalisation as well as gestures made it incredibly difficult not to become invested in the character. Madeline Banbury who plays Patrice, a sweet ‘Greeky’ girl next door, shows impeccable vocal strength during all her musical numbers with Isabella Pappas, the school mean girl not too far behind, Pappas was a signature ‘Disney’-type mean girl, ticking all the boxes, from vindictive to obsessive and annoying, it is enough for the audience members to hope for her demise and this is due to her flawless characterisation. A lot can be said about the whole ensemble, every performer performed significantly and the whole piece would not have been as well if they were not such a strong ensemble. There are minor mishaps and slight inconsistencies with the accents as well as Panni’s sometimes too rapid speech which always caught up to him. However what is presented is worthy of sell out status.
- By Dan Elish and Robert Brown
- Director and Choreographer: Ewan Jones
- Cast includes: Milo Panni, Ethan Quinn, Lewis Ledlie, Alex Thomas, Daniel Osei, Akmed Khemolie, George Littell
- Ambassadors Theatre, London
- Until 23 August 2017
- Review by Munotida Chinyanga
- 19 August 2017