It feels like we're seeing more Jason Robert Brown shows in the UK than ever before. With several adaptations of The Last Five Years (including its first time in the West End later this month) and Songs For A New World, his amazing repertoire is becoming more widespread... which is certainly no bad thing. One of his less performed musicals, 13 has now made its way over to the UK for a rare one night only performance at the beautiful Cadogan Hall.
This amateur performance of 13 has been put together by The British Theatre Academy - the UK's leading theatre company for young performers. In the past they have produced shows such as Bring It On at Southwark Playhouse. For this show they have assembled a mammoth cast of over 70 brilliantly talented young performers to bring new life into a show that has rarely been seen this side of the pond.
13 is a coming-of-age story about a group of, you guessed it, 13 year olds who deal with all the labels and struggles that come with trying to find your place in school. At the heart of the story is Evan Goldman, who has moved from New York to a sleepy town in Indiana and has to navigate trying to fit in with his upcoming Bar mitzvah. Played by Edward Flynn-Hadon, he brilliantly interacts with all other cast members while displaying a true star quality.
Evan's first friend in Indiana, Patrice, is played by Ivy Pratt who demonstrates an incredible voice, bringing the house down with solo number 'Good Enough'. Another standout in the cast is Ethan Quinn as Archie who displays brilliant comic timing as the terminally ill Archie. The coolest kid in school, Brett, is played with suitable swagger by Samuel Menhinick while Rebecca Nardin and Zoe Forward delight as best friends and rivals for Bretts affection Kendra and Lucy.
As with all Jason Robert Brown shows, the songs are cleverly written, full of wit and incredibly catchy. Some of his finest numbers make up this show with standouts including the darkly funny 'Terminal Illness', 'Get Me What I Need' and the Boyz II Men soundalike 'Hey Kendra'. Another highlight is the shows penultimate number 'A Little More Homework' which feels similar to 'You Will Be Found'. Perhaps the show should be called Dear Evan Goldman? For the shows final number, some members of the large ensemble get their own chance to shine, taking front and centre for 'Brand New You'.
One highlight of this production is the fantastic choreography from Corin Miller.- impressively staged considering the large number of people on stage, it is executed with precision. Browns fantastic score is executed flawlessly by musical director Chris Ma, and brilliant direction from Dean Johnson ensures the minimalistic approach and concert style feel never allows the show to feel boring for even a second.
This is a show that will appeal to young audiences and those who are, shall we say, not so young? Though the constant references to "the tongue" may veer slightly on the cringey side and liken this to a less smutty American Pie. With comparisons to other more youth oriented shows like Be More Chill and Heathers, 13 is a show that deserves to be seen in London more often. Surely it's only a matter of time before it graces a West End stage?
Ultimately, what made 13 a joy to witness was the sheer talent that filled every inch of that stage. With a refreshingly diverse and inclusive cast full of some incredible talents, it left me in no doubt that the future of musical theatre is in safe hands - as this next generation are completely sensational. If 13 marked the first time some of these performers found themself on a major stage in London, it certainly won't be the last time. I'm keen to see what these fantastic talents do next, and am grateful for the British Theatre Academy for providing these opportunities for so many young people.
Photos by Eliza Wilmot
For more on the British Theatre Academy go to https://thebritishtheatreacademy.com