Theatre foyers these days are too often the province of the middle aged and older. How refreshing it was then to see such a young crowd mingling pre show.
We had all come to see 13 THE MUSICAL, book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, which premiered on Broadway back in 2009.
This was the return season of this show which was originally presented by the Chatswood Musical Society. This production was brought to us by the newly formed theatre Company, Brand New You, in association with The Annex Dance and Arts Centre.
The show follows Evan Goldman’s journey. Evan is 12 and coming up to that landmark day in his thirteenth year when he has his Bar Mitzvah – when a Jewish boy becomes a man and receives heaps of presents and cash from his family and friends.
It’s all looks like smooth sailing for Evan but then a wild storm comes up to take him off course. His father has an affair with a stewardess, his mother announces that she will get a divorce, and on top of it all announces that they are leaving New York and going to move to Appleton in Illinois.
We watch Evan as he strives to cope with settling into a new town with everything that this entails. His goal, to make it to his special day and to be able to celebrate it in style!
Heather Campbell’s production, with choreography by Justin Jarrett and musical direction by Jessica Manning, was vibrant and appealingly playful. Campbell impressively brought together some twenty four teenage performers on stage and get them to work together to come up with a cohesive and satisfying show.
The staging was streamlined and effective. The main stage area was left mainly unimpeded except for cubes which were used for the performers to sit down or stand up on.
There was a well staged scene at the commencement of Act 2 which intimated a movie theatre with the kids seated looking at a large screen that was pulled down with the inference being that it was a movie screen and that the kids were enjoying a Saturday night at the movies with all the typical teenage byplay.
Through the show Campbell had kids streaming down both flanks of the theatre as they bounded onto the stage.
A very hip band of teenage musos comprising Dylan Catterall on drums, Lachlan Bates on guitar, Tali Greenfield and Thomas Odeil on keyboards and Euan Welch on bass created plenty of heat through the show. They were well placed at the back of the stage.
Kristian Babian impressed in the lead and his energy and focus never flagged in a demanding role.
Olivia McNamara gave a strong performance as the bullied, sensitive Patrice. Patrice is the first friend Evan makes in his new home town and over the course of the play they become close even romantic friends. There is good chemistry between the two performers.
Jude Paddon-Row almost stole the show playing Archie, a cheerful, pugnacious boy suffering from muscular dystrophy who strutted around the stage with his crutches. Paddon-Row gave a charismatic, comic performance.
Savannah Clarke played Kendra, the prettiest girl in school who all the guys wanted to date, Damien Hempstead was Brett, the sport jock who all the girls wanted to be with, and Abby van Balkom was the super catty and competitive Lucy.
In the supporting cast, Mariah Gonzalez as Charlotte, Poppi Kent as Molly, Holly Hawkens as Cassie, Daniel Timmins as Malcolm, Ryan McLean as Eddie, Luci Yi as Simon and Rabi, Ty Arnott as Richie, Katie McPherson as Frankie, Anna Miller as Bella, Eloise Butler as Brittany, Daisy Armfield as MacKenzie, Martha Barlow as Stacey, Caitlin Frazer as Taylor, Isla Hajipavlou as Chelsea, Georgie Lyons as Emily, Niki Paterson as Zoe and Sarah Power as Lexi each made good contributions.
Verdict. This musical has plenty of appeal. Add to this the freshness and energy of Heather Campbell’s production and the show was again a great night in the theatre.
The return season of 13 THE MUSICAL played the Independent Theatre, North Sydney between the 8th and the 10th September.