Review – 13 The Musical

Apr 4 2012 | By More


Pleasance Theatre: Wed 4 – Sat 7 April 2012
Review by Thom Dibdin

Bursting with exuberance, big beats and hormonally-enhanced doses of angst, the Forth Children’s Theatre production of 13 The Musical, captures that particularly vicious age when you officially become a teenager.

Alex Bathe stars as Jewish New Yorker Evan Goldman, a happy enough lad despite his parents’ divorce. At least the major event on his horizon, his Bar Mitzvah, will be a success thanks to all his pals.

Alex Bathe plays Evan Goldman in the FCT production of 13 The Musical. Pic Mark Gorman

Except that his mum decides to take them off to Indiana – leaving Evan with only a few weeks to sort out the party in the lamest small town in the vast expanse of lame American small towns. At least he gets on with Patrice, the girl next door, so he’ll have a toehold when the new school term starts.

With a 38 strong cast squeezed onto the Pleasance stage and very little in the way of set, this is a song-driven affair. The company providing a versatile chorus who are equally happy whether they are Rabbis or school-kids, an audience at a Friday night horror movie or cheerleaders working out their latest routine.

The book, by Dan Elish, follows a nicely modern path along what is a somewhat predictable route. Evan throws over his friendship with Patrice when he discovers she’s an un-cool geek at school. Instead he tries to impress the school bully Brett and his sidekicks Malcolm and Eddie. But through a series of mishaps, and thanks to Patrice’s pal Archie, he eventually finds out who his real friends are.

There are great performances all round – and plenty of opportunity for individual members of the chorus to shine. Alex Bathe makes a very studied Evan and could afford to let it rip have a bit of fun – even when his character isn’t. Opening night difficulties with the sound balance didn’t help him.

Whoops of admiration

As Patrice, Harmony Rose-Bremner proves that while she has a huge voice, she also has the ability to keep it in check. When she did let the music really fly in Lamest Place in the World, she drew whoops of admiration from the audience.

Max Cutting might not be your conventional bruiser – or even an all-American Jock – but he finds a layer or menace for Brett. Which is completely subverted by Charlie West and Alex Gordon as his sidekicks Malcolm and Eddie, improvising a laid back R&B-style routine for Brett to perform to try and get the beautiful but dim Kendra to go out with him. The pair have a good on-stage rapport.

The Cheerleaders strut their stuff in the FCT production of 13. Pic: Mark Gorman

Maya Stewart makes a splendid job of Kendra, naive and trusting of her supposed best friend, Lucy, while blissfully unaware of her own limitations when creating routines for the cheerleaders. Rachel Bell has even more to get her teeth into with Lucy – a truly manipulative individual who wants Brett all to herself.

A rather more tricky but much less obvious role is taken on by Gus Harrower as Archie, who uses crutches because of a degenerative – and possibly terminal – illness. He doesn’t get much of the flashy music to sing but has plenty of the mundane but necessary to keep the narrative on track.

This all could appear to be lifted wholesale from the world of American High School as depicted in Glee or High School Musical. Indeed, it has both the telephone rumour scene and the cheerleader scene as cliches of the genre.

Fortunately Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics give scope for the characters to find a shade more depth. While director Ronan Radin with choreographer Katie Renton muster the forces at their disposal to maximum effect.

A solidly entertaining production, with some standout comedy moments and real vocal fireworks.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Run ends Saturday 7 April 2012
Shows: daily 7.30pm; Sat mat 2.30pm.
Forth Children’s Theatre Website:

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Comments (3)

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  1. Ronan Radin says:

    Thanks for your kind words and glad you enjoyed it!