Review by Lia Cocks
As I finish my Fringe season, I am treated to a fresh version of 13 The Musical by Adelaide Youth Theatre [AYT].
With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, 13 is essentially a coming of age musical, where 13 year old Evan Goldman moves from the big smoke of New York City to small town Indiana following the divorce of his parents. Hoping to make his impending Bar Mitzvah his big debut, he must escape rumours and blackmail if he hopes to make friends and find happiness at his new school.
13 The Musical deals with the hardships of leaving familiar places for strange ones, fitting in with your peers, navigating the complicated social circles of high school and transitioning from youth to adulthood – all the while dealing with pre-pubescent hormones!
13 is the only Broadway musical ever with a cast and band entirely made up of teenagers. While this production didn’t have the teenage band – this group of young actors certainly fit the bill!
The story’s bright and nerdy protagonist, Evan, was portrayed with a sincere vulnerability by Oliver Lawes.
The good-humoured, intelligent and unpopular kid Archie was played to comical perfection by Cobain Bradley. A challenging role, as the character has muscular dystrophy and is on crutches the entire time, Bradley rose to the occasion and shone especially in ‘Get Me What I Need’ and ‘All Hail the Brain/Terminal Illness’.
Shae Olsson-Jones as the typical, vain, junior high school jock Brett, along with his T-Birdesque, wannabe side kicks Malcolm, Eddie, Richie and Simon [James Farquhar, Jai Williams, Riley Gow and Sam Stringer respectively] provided the humorous relief with my favourite melodies ‘Hey Kendra’ and ‘Bad Bad News’
As the smart, manipulative, sneaky and shallow Lucy, Claudia Heys shines especially in her song ‘Opportunity’.
Paige Tran is hilarious as the naïve, bubbly, ditzy and most popular girl at school, Kendra.
However, the standout for me was Kiara Linke as the shy, perceptive, bookworm Patrice. Her lovely, honest and charming voice glowed throughout the theatre, hitting the highest of notes and seamlessly flowing between her head voice and belt. She really portrayed the character from inside out, and her rendition of ‘What it Means to be a Friend’ was truly heartfelt.
Excellent work by the girl ensemble and cheerleaders – flipping and dancing all over the stage with the vigour reminiscent of the Energiser bunny!
Director Jayden Prelc, himself an AYT graduate, in his first full musical leadership role, proved he has the mentorship and vision required for a show like this. With excellent characterisations, clear stage movement and seamless transitions, Prelc is a natural in the executive position.
Choreography was crisp and clear and totally appropriate for the show, so well done to Teagan Fisher.
Kudos to young Taylor Tran for stepping in for Mark Stefanoff as Musical Director. She is a promising talent in that department.
While the band sometimes overwhelmed the voices, there were some awesome bass riffs and undertones to be enjoyed.
Simple but effective costumes, set and props added to the whole production, as did the lighting.
I especially loved the clever revolving lockers which were turned and moved displaying backdrops of the New York skyline or Indiana landscape.
13 is a fabulous musical that all teenagers should watch – kind of like Book of Mormon for kids! With some serious subjects like bullying, disability, discrimination, and sexism on display in a satirical way, it demonstrates the importance of true friends and understanding what growing up really means.
Adelaide Youth Theatre continues it’s strong hold as being a brilliant training ground for young people in the arts. You will never be disappointed.