Thursday, October 10, 2013

Applause! Applause! Review of 13 at Cultural Arts Playhouse by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of 13 performed at the Cultural Arts Playhouse was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 3 (2013) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Cultural Arts Playhouse (625 Old Country Road, Plainview, NY)
Reviewed 10/10/13

13 is a musical with lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and a book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. It premiered on January 7, 2007 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, California and ran through February 18, 2007. It was next produced by Goodspeed Musicals at the Norma Terris Theater in Chester, Connecticut running from May 9, 2008 through June 8, 2008. 13 opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on October 5, 2008 and closed on January 4, 2009 after 105 performances. This production received one Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown.

The story centers around Evan Goldman, a 12 year old who moved from Manhattan to Appleton, Indiana with his mother after his parents decided to divorce. Evan, played by Zach Housman on the night I saw the show, describes himself as a "geek" but his character is more what I would call a "putz" (i.e. dick). He tries to get the cool kids to like him and to attend his upcoming Bar Mitzvah by uninviting Patrice, who was his first new friend in town and then disrespects her a second time when he invites her to a movie on a group date only to ignore her the whole time. Patrice likes Evan and eventually forgives him. Brett, the star quarterback, likes Kendra, the beautiful head cheerleader, but her friend Lucy, who also likes Brett, is jealous. Lucy convinces Kendra not to go with Brett and then jumps in to snatch him for herself. Brett's friends, who miss their leader, consider themselves to have been "jock blocked". Brett eventually chooses Kendra over Lucy after which Lucy spreads a vicious rumor that Kendra and Evan have hooked up, an extremely unlikely scenario I am surprised anyone believes. Archie, a physically handicapped friend of Patrice, manipulates Evan into setting up a date for him with Kendra. In a hilarious moment, in the dark movie theater during the group date, Brett leans over to French kiss Kendra. Lucy pushes Kendra's face out of the way as Archie also attempts to kiss Kendra and the result was Brett and Archie kissing. In the end, the cool kids abandon Evan and only Archie and Patrice end up at his Bar Mitzvah, the remaining group described by Archie as being "the gimp, the geek, the Jew and his mother."

The runaway star of this show is Kristen Murphy, who plays Patrice. She is an excellent actor with a very powerful singing voice. Her renditions of "The Lamest Place In The World" and "What It Means To Be A Friend" were absolutely amazing! If all the actors in this show were as talented as she is, I would have nothing but praise to offer. Unfortunately that was not the case. I cringed many times when some performers sang off-key.  They were simply not in her league. Nevertheless, a good group effort made "Any Minute", "Bad Bad News" and "A Little More Homework" enjoyable and entertaining numbers. Jojo Minasi, a very talented actor, stepped in at the last minute to play Brett but he was more convincing as a geek than he was as a jock.

I like the songs in this musical and will be buying the Broadway cast album. If you have not seen 13, I recommend you take this opportunity to see it at the Cultural Arts Playhouse.

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