On Broadway 13 a smooth coming of age tale geared toward kids around that age performed by an entire cast of enthusiastic teenagers, including the onstage band, is one for the whole family. The show boasts some catchy tunes and several good performances by the youngsters. Based on the show’s slick marketing and packaging, the kids may already be chomping at the bit to see 13. The musical could easily be the opening for some serious heart to heart time with your kids about values, empathy and the effect of our choices.
Not that the book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn is all that deep, but there is a realistic look at some of the challenges pertinent to adolescences, especially with regard to peer pressure. The story follows the hero Evan (Graham Philllips), a 12 year old New Yorker who is getting ready for a rollicking bar mitzvah party. His plans, however, go up in smoke when his parents get divorced and his mother transports him to Appleton, Indiana. Evan quickly makes friends with Patrice (Allie Trimm), an intelligent young girl, who he later learns is an outcast to the other students. In his effort to get the others to like him and come to his bar mitzvah, Evan treats Patrice badly and sucks up to the in crowd led by Brett (Eric M. Melsen), a insensitive blonde jock, and Lucy (Elizabeth Egan Gillies), a shrewd cheerleader with her own shallow self interests as her highest priority.
The story feels like a “paint by the numbers” picture, with numerous plotlines running off Evan’s main conflict. The characters are pretty much one dimensional with one exception Archie (Aaron Simon Gross), who walks with crutches due to a degenerative spinal disease. Gross’ Archie even gets a duet with Evan, a vaudeville number called “Terminal Illness,” that is probably the highlight of the evening.
The songs by Jason Robert Brown in several styles from reggae to soul and pop give the evening a lasting appeal; even while his lyrics have an imposed maturity about them that sounds silly for the teenagers. But the juxtaposition when the kids perform them is quite cute and clever. “It Can’t Be True” and “A Little More Homework” are two of the more appealing.
Encouraged by director Jeremy Sams the endearing cast, thirteen of which are making their Broadway debuts, is having the time of their lives. They deliver on the mark precision dancing and idol-like vocals with energy to spare.
By: Gordin & Christano
Originally Published in Dan’s Papers
13 is playing on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 West 45th Street between Broadway on Eighth Avenue. For tickets and information on show time call 212-239-6200.