13 the Musical by Eternal Theatre Collective
Until August 12th
13 the Musical crackles with energy and is utterly charming.
A musical about turning 13 doesn’t lend itself to riveting story telling. One assumes songs about acne and getting grounded. Surprisingly though although it took awhile to get cooking by the end I was completely won over.
Eternal Theatre Company is a new company for actors between the ages of 13 and 25 and although the city already has Awkward Stage Productions and Twenty Something Theatre it’s clear this city has an abundance of young talent.
The story is simple – a young Jewish boy finds out just before his Bar Mitzvah that his parents are divorcing and he is moving to Appleton, Indiana. He makes friends with a neighbour named Patrice and then when the school year starts he has to choose between her and the cool kids.
Director Laura Reynolds has a cast of 13 to 25 years of age and although some are still raw talent needing of some polishing they all showed that they are stars in the making.
Patrice is played by the 18 year old Colette Richardson who gives a warm performance packed with a terrific belt.
Brett is the dreamboat school bully that the women fight over. Played by 20 year old Ryan Horton with enough humour and swagger to counter the cruel asshole qualities nicely. His buddies Malcolm and Eddie are hilariously played by Jeremy Cruz (18) and Cameron Leong (17) and they get to cut loose in the wickedly funny song Bad Bad News.
The philosophical yet horny differently abled Archie is played with goofy appeal by 18 year old Matthew Tucker. The girl he is smitten with is Kendra (played with a perky playfulness by 15 year old Kendra Cordick) who is dating Brett. Her duplicitous friend Lucy is played by 17 year old Jen Shannon who brings sass and wickedness and powerful singing voice. Here song with the cheerleaders called Opportunity is a highlight in Act One.
The whole company is grandly fun and the group numbers arranged by vocal director Paolo Camia sound great although there were major mike problems for the soloists on opening night. Also some of the under trained voices occasionally suffered pitch problems on the big notes. The five-piece band conducted by Elizabeth Suen has rich, rock sound.
A highlight was the complex patterns in the choreography by Hailey Fowler, energetic and full of fanciful flourishes. They were a joy to watch.
The score and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown is filled with surprising realistic teen angst but told without being overly sentimental and some great moments of cheek. The increasing insane scheming by Evan in All Hail The Brain / Terminal Illness brings ear-to-ear grinning. The song about the yearning for a first kiss during a scary movie is punctuated by screams of on-screen antics to hilarious effect.
Act two is much tighter than Act One and more happens but also act two is where Elias Verheyan age 17 as Evan really shone. He brought a simple openness and vulnerability to the character that was touching and his singing voice is velvety and crisp. In the closing number Brand New You and the company bows he also showed he really loved dancing.
Although Act One was a bit of challenge to find something to really invest in emotionally the humour and verve helped carry it and then in Act Two is just starts to really crackle with energy and by the end you are completely charmed.
And there wasn’t a single song about acne or getting grounded.
David C Jones