Friday, 18 August 2017

Review 13 The Musical

13 The Musical
Music & Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book By Dan Elish & Robert Horn

Your Town Becomes Our Town

There's a young newcomer in an Indiana town at Dan Quayle Junior High and within this institution's walls are the jocks, the popular girls (aka mean girls), the nerds and the geeks - and now there's Evan.

13 is probably every fish-out-of-water comedy drama/sitcom and middle and high school musical you've ever seen (or not seen) with a touch of South Park to boot.

Yet this is a true children's musical -  all the roles are the age of the title - and the show therefore relies on the charm of its cast.

Luckily the present production has a cast, directed and skilfully choreographed by Ewan Jones, with spadefuls of it, even as the show itself lays on the clichés in digger truck loads.

Evan is just about to turn 13 and apart from a zit or two, life seems unproblematic in metropolitan Manhattan. Then pow! His parents divorce and kapow! His mother whisks him off, for unexplained reasons, to Appleton, Indiana.

At 13 such problems may be magnified into a horror movie in teenage minds (there's Carrie, that other high school musical to verify that). 

So we follow Evan, hailed and then derided as "the Brain" and two other young misfit Indiana natives, Patrice and Archie, in their various The Wonder Years' missteps and victories until everyone gets their priorities sorted and are ready to start on the business of Life with a capital L.

Milo Panni makes an exceptionally cute Evan who finds himself the victim of his own schemes to make himself popular. Madeline Banbury as fellow outcast Patrice proves a polished, confident performer right from her first solo "The Lamest Place In The World".

Ethan Quinn, previously seen in Ragtime, is an engagingly kooky Archie, a cross between Tiny Tim, the lame boy in the Pied Piper of Hamelin and a dark-humoured stand up comedian in "Get Me What I Need".and "Terminal Illness".

There's able support from Lewis Ledlie as the school jock and Chloe Endean as the school's cheerleading object of desire. Isabelle Pappas also delivers the goods as the jealous friend whose power of rumour mongering in "It Can't Be True" would be the envy of many an underhand politician 

There's an entertaining-in-its-own-right backdrop (along the lines of Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover) design from Tom Paris and excellent lighting and sound from Edward Pagett and Andrew Johnson.   

Now the nitpicking.This production embraces the conventional tropes of the high school genre, life-and-soul-of-the-party popularity, "All Hail The Brain!", finding who your true friends are. "

But maybe the clever ceremonial but heartfelt message and juxtaposition in Becoming A Man in the midst of acrimonious divorcing parents "I don't know what a man means/The rule book grows, but noone knows/What all the rules allow" and the final "A Little More Homework to do"  become a bit lost.

There was also a bit of unevenness in diction with a couple of the male leads at the beginning which did wear away as the show progressed. There was certainly a good balance between Chris Ma's four-piece band of keyboards, guitar, bass and drums.

But this is  TLT and her (sole) automotive clique member being picky, This is an intricate show, needing spot-on timing, mastered well by an accomplished young cast.

It's certainly an enjoyable show with enough edge (especially in the light of current events in the USA) to keep a wide age range entertained during the school summer holidays and it's a green light. 

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