Thirteen reasons I enthusiastically applaud Metropolitan Performing Arts Theatre’s production of 13 The Musical about growing up geeky and the profound desire to be popular:
- The entire cast, all teens or nearly-teens, gave terrific acting, singing, and dancing performances.
- The fantastic performance of Gabi Stapula as the small town, unpopular geek, Patrice. Even in the opening number with the full cast of 21, Stapula’s dancing stood out from the crowd. Her sweet and clear singing was expressive.
- Director Katy Chmura’s guiding hand that effectively creates connections between the actors and the audience in staging and in eliciting emotions from her cast
- Ben Cherington in the lead role of Evan Goldman was particularly strong as he sang “Becoming a Man,” “Invitations,” and “Tell Her.”
- The cast’s ability to maintain their energy from the opening number to the post-curtain-call closer.
- The stage crew who were efficient and unobtrusive in moving the sets.
- James Wood as Archie, the character with a neuromuscular disease who walks with forearm crutches, did a great job in a part that could be troubling in the wrong hands. Wood sings well but he really shone in juggling the character’s humor, desires, and pathos.
- The choreography was imaginatively conceived by Jonathan Faircloth and well executed by the cast.
- Archie, Evan, and Patrice harmonized well and displayed a mature stage presence and confidence as they sang “If That’s What It Is.”
- Julian Olive, as one of the football players, exhibited a well-developed comic timing.
- The experienced cast showed a great deal of professionalism and never let us see them sweat despite a number of outages with the actors’ headset microphones.
- Eileen Abood as the jealous best friend of the school’s lead cheerleader successfully conveys her character’s intense need to be liked and have everything her more popular friend possesses.
- “Getting Ready,” the big Act One ending song, reminiscent of “One Day More” in Les Miserables, weaves together the show’s full cast simultaneously singing multiple melody lines and lyrics. It’s not easy to do well and this young cast pulls it off with skill and composure.
I could not award fewer than five stars because this cast and crew worked well together and gave the audience such terrific performances.
Having said that, I find the book of 13 The Musical, written by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, to be drivel. Characters are reduced to stereotypes and, at times, spout offensive nonsense. The story is formulaic and flat. I found myself almost shouting aloud to Patrice, the smart and unpopular girl who is the first to welcome and accept newcomer Evan to her Indiana smalltown, when she apologizes to Evan even though he is the one who treated her badly. The songs with music and lyrics by Jason Roberts Brown (Parade, and The Last Five Years) are only marginally better. The show ran on Broadway for 105 performances, just three months.
The story follows New Yorker Evan Goldman who is turning 13 and feeling pressure to have the best Bar Mitzvah imaginable. Because his parents are divorcing, he and his mother move to Appleton, Indiana (cue small town inbreeding jokes). Evan makes friends with his neighbor Patrice who describes herself as geeky and unpopular. Evan wants all the popular kids to come to his Bar Mitzvah party so he helps Brett, the most popular jock in school, to summon the courage to ask Kendra, the prettiest cheerleader in school, to a scary movie so he can kiss her with tongue. Brett pronounces Evan “cool” and agrees to come to Evan’s party. When Patrice tells Evan no one else will go if she attends the Bar Mitzvah, he rips up her invitation. Archie enters and uses his degenerative illness to guilt Evan into getting him a date with Kendra. As you might expect, problems and misunderstandings ensue leading to an ending that is not unexpected. The cast and crew gain extra points for overcoming such a lame show.
I am looking forward to future MPAT performances if 13 The Musical is representative of the quality of performances.
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission.
The second and final performances of 13 The Musical has one more performance – TONIGHT at 7:30 PM at Lake Braddock Secondary School – 9200 Burke Lake Road, in Burke, VA. Purchase tickets here.To view upcoming productions by Metropolitan Performing Arts Theatre, check out their website.