Last night I had the opportunity to check out 13, the new Broadway musical from Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years and Parade). 13 is about teenagers trying to navigate life as they know it — the usual — puberty, crushes, and cliques.
At the center of the show is 12 (soon to be 13) yr old Evan played by Graham Phillips. Evan is a Jewish kid from New York who moves to a po-dunk town in Indiana after his parents decide to divorce. Naturally, the living shake-up causes turmoil in young Evan’s life, especially centered around his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. Evan is smart, quick-witted (thanks to Phillips great comedic timing), but an outsider nonetheless. In trying to get in with the cool crowd, Evan risks alienating the friends that accepted him outright — outcasts Patrice (Allie Trimm) and Archie (Aaron Simon Gross).
The show itself is short in comparison to other Broadway musicals – clocking in at 90 minutes without intermission – but it still felt lengthy at times. Not to knock the show, but I’m 27 so the sounds of pubescent boys singing gets to be a bit much on the ears after a while. The on-stage band is composed of all teenagers, which keeps true to the shows overall theme of showcasing talented up and coming stars. The songs are standard JRB, which fuses pop-rock stylings with theatrical lyrics, but definitely not his best work. Impressively, the young bandsters managed to navigate JRB’s music with ease and confidence.
Though the show is centered around Graham Phillip’s character Evan, the stand out talent is Allie Trimm as Patrice. This girl has some serious singing chops with potential to have her name in lights for a long time coming. She plays the sweet girl-next-door type perfectly, but her cute factor makes it a bit difficult to imagine her actually being a true “outcast.” For teens, Trimm and Phillip’s chemistry worked nicely, especially during their duet on “Tell Her,” which gave me chills.
Other standouts were Al Calderon (as Eddie) and Malik Hammond (as Malcolm). This comedic duo played the best buds of Brett (Eric M. Nelsen), the oh-so popular kid with no brains that Evan desperately sought the approval of. Calderon and Hammond kept the audience laughing on cue with quick one-liners and of course the occasional politically incorrect joke. Even a quick swipe at the original tween-teen musical creator, Disney.
Overall, 13is a good show with incredible potential. You can’t help but be jealous watching these ridiculously talented kids perform to sold out crowds of adoring tween/teen fangirls who shrilled each time any male character stepped on stage. However, if you’re out of the teenage range, borrow a younger cousin or neighbor’s kid to take to the show or you’ll just look like the weird creepy person in the audience.