Young Guns Having Some Fun – 13 The Musical Review

Theatre Review

13 The Musical by the Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre

Hub at St Mary’s on the Market Square, Tuesday 7 June 2022

By Jono Oates

13 is one of the significant years of everyone’s lives…along with the right to vote at 18, the keys to the door at 21, the start of middle age at 40 and leaving the rat race at 65, 13 is one of the most significant as you enter the notorious Teens and painfully stagger your way from kidulthood to adulthood.

13 The Musical is the first production since Covid-19 for the wonderful Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre (LMYT) and the choice of show is definitely an inspired one. First performed in 2008, with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and taken from the book 13 which was co-written by Brown and Dan Elish, it tells the story of 12-year-old Evan Goldman as he turns 13 and discovers much about friendship, life, love and relationships.

After his parents’ marriage crumbles Evan is forced to move from glitzy New York, New York, the City that Never Sleeps, to middle-of-nowhere Appleton in Indiana, the Midwest of America and the Town that Never Wakes Up.  As he approaches his 13th birthday, and his upcoming Bar Mitzvah, Evan has to quickly make new friends in a strange town and invite them all to the most important party of his life. He quickly realises that he must use his wits to keep everyone happy and to make sure he remains friends with the snooty sorority cheerleaders and the star quarterback as well as the most unpopular kids in class. As Evan’s increasingly tangled web of lies and half-truths starts to un-ravel he soon comes to realise exactly who is real friends are…and who the real love of his life is.

13 is the only musical that has been performed on Broadway with a cast made-up entirely of teenagers and that is why it is a perfect fit for the super-talented cast of LMYT, whose ages range from 13 to 18 in this show and with an average age of just 15. The opening number, the eponymous 13 segued with Becoming a Man, featuring Evan and the 16-strong cast, sets the scene for the whole musical – joyous, boundless enthusiasm and energy, with a finger-snapping backbeat, super-sharp witty lyrics and gyrating choreography – it’s both infectious and irresistible. As Evan struggles with his voyage of exploration in to the adult world of relationships, love and heartbreak, the songs and lyrics match the many ups-and-downs of our young hero as he tries to keep the peace between his warring friends, and keep his own sanity. The show closes with another rousing show-stopper, the wonderful Brand New You, featuring the whole cast again and producing an audience reaction which filled the cavernous heights of the Hub at St Mary’s with applause.

The performances were outstanding all-round with the triumvirate of Nate Wallace as Evan, Anneka Horne as his erstwhile sweetheart Patrice, and Ethan Bowley as the crutch-hobbling, terminally-ill Archie being especially effective as the three uncool students, up against the most popular kids in school. Nate leads the cast in a very professional, and assured manner, with a convincing Manhattan Jewish accent throughout and – Goddammit – he even looks American! Even more impressive is that he is just 15-years-old, yet puts in a very accomplished performance. Great supporting performances from James Padley as quarterback Brett, Emma Preston as tug-of-war love interest Kendra, a very spirited performance from Emily Glasgow as queen-bee Lucy, all put-downs and ‘you’ll never guess what she said about you…’, and also a slice of knockabout double-trouble fun from Luke Morgan as Malcolm and 13-year-old King Edward VI pupil Euan Barnaby as his partner-in-crime Eddie.

If you have read my (many) theatre reviews before you will know by now that I love one element at any musical…Ensemble…Ensemble…Ensemble!! The stage at the Hub is compact, with the audience sitting ‘in the round’ so you feel very much part of the show – you can at times almost reach out and touch the actors and you can see very clearly every facial expression and hear every voice. So, when all 16 actors are dancing and singing in the ensemble pieces it is just fabulous, you can ‘feel’ their feet stamp the floor as the sound travels up your chair, and in the cheerleader-inspired song Opportunity you can feel the swish of the pom-poms on your face as they swirl around the stage – it’s as American as Apple Pie!

The stage set is very simple, in a compact environment, with four blocks moving round to denote the different locations, and the lighting is very evocative, as the shadows start to fall and the coloured lights highlight the Victorian stonework of the pillars and walls of the former church. I sat to the right of the stage which afforded a great view of the actors as well as the impressive stained-glass window of the chancel in the background – it is a truly magical setting.

The young cast are ably-directed by experienced director Richard Poynton and the musical direction is by Oliver Rowe, who is also the chairman of LMYT. The un-seen musicians provide the perfect backdrop to the performance, very tight and not overblown, it is a toe-tapping and finger-snapping score and you feel like you know the tunes even if you have never heard them before. The choreography, especially during the ensemble pieces, is expertly co-ordinated by Jessica Bennett, and is very impressive considering that the stage is not the largest, and with a 16-strong cast.

13 The Musical is the ideal musical for the Covid comeback of the LMYT group. The Boys, and Girls, are definitely Back in Town, and these Young Guns show that teenagers can put on a dazzling, professional performance, which is way beyond their ages and experience. So please book your tickets to watch the New Kids on the Block go through their paces – it’s a preppy, poppy, soda-fizzing, lip smackin, hip-swinging, pom-pom swirling, hotdog of a show!

13 The Musical, by the Lichfield Musical Youth Theatre, is on at the Hub at St Mary’s on the Market Square, from Wednesday 8 June to Saturday 11 June. Performance starts at 8pm, 90-minute running time, and no interval. Tickets start at £16 and can be purchased online from the Hub at St Mary’s website at:

www.thehubstmarys.co.uk/events/13-the-musical/

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