13 - A New Musical

Adelaide College of the Arts. 3 Mar 2012

Usually billed as a ‘new’ musical, “13” was written for young performers and first premiered in Los Angeles in 2007.  It then transferred to Broadway in September 2008 and had its Australian premiere in 2010.  Written by Jason Robert Brown, Dan Elish and Robert Horn, “13” is about the life of 13-year-old Jewish boy Evan Goldman.  His parents have just acrimoniously divorced – his mum cut-out the image of her ex from every photograph in the house, with her teeth! – and he is uprooted from New York and moves to ‘nowheresville’ Appleton in Indiana. 

Evan is about to turn 13 and celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, but who will attend?  The plot examines his trials and tribulations as he tries to make new friends, especially amongst the ‘in crowd’, which is led by sports star Brett, but they are not the nicest group of people around.  As deep and meaningful as a wading pool, Brett makes it clear that his group will not befriend Evan if he persists in his friendship with Patrice and Archie.  Patrice is bespectacled and bookish, and ‘nice’, and Archie suffers from a terminal neuromuscular disease and gets around on crutches.   Brett and crew consider them to be total social anathema.  Evan succumbs to the lure of ‘the popular kids’ destroys his relationship with Patrice and Archie – his ‘true’ friends – but eventually comes to his senses.

“13” is great fun and first-time director Rodney Hutton draws on his own wealth of on-stage experience to assist the young cast to create an ensemble of thirteen (there’s that number again) strong and totally believable characters.  Kyle Hall was confident as Evan, and handled his difficult Bar Mitzvah recitative with poise.  Tahlia Fantone played Patrice with just the right amount of sweetness and strength of character.  Ben Johnson was almost always a scene stealer as Archie, oozing assuredness and purpose but in a light hearted and poignant way.  Wade Lindstrom was sufficiently cocky as Brett, but might have been a little more menacing.  Connor Olsson-Jones and Christian Bartlett as Malcolm and Eddie were excellent as the two comic ‘henchman’ and are both clearly at home on the stage.  They were ably support by Naomi Belet (Lucy), Abi Dibb (Kendra) and Wade Lindstron (Brett), and the rest of the company.

In keeping with the Fringe, the set was minimalist, comprising of a few items of furniture that were slickly moved around the stage by the crew, and a series of well conceived visual projections.  The small band was well rehearsed by MD Michelle Nightingale and they competently handled the largely enjoyable and at times rhythmically difficult score.  Mel George’s choreography was elegantly simple, effective, and completely empathetic with the music and text and always complementary to the characters.  Her routines for Malcolm and Eddie were a highlight. 

The Adelaide Youth Theatre can be proud of this production.  It was bright and energetic, and plain good fun!

Kym Clayton

When: Closed (with new performances to be announced soon)
Where: Adelaide College of the Arts
Bookings: www.adelaidefringe.com.au