Smells Like Teen Spirit 

The all-teen cast of “13” is charming but there’s little to reflect real teens’ lives today.

click to enlarge art45_varep_cadence_13_6.jpg

Jay Paul

Call me a cynic, but it’s hard not to watch the musical “13” – currently being staged by Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Virginia Repertory Theater – and come away with the idea that its creators were simply trying to cash in on the success of Disney’s wildly popular “High School Musical” franchise.

Similarly following a crew of young people as they try to navigate friendships, romance and the importance of being cool, “13” is the only Broadway musical to feature a cast and band entirely made up of teenagers.

With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and a book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, the story concerns 12-year-old Evan Goldman (Evan Dymon), a Jewish boy from New York who’s suddenly shunted off to the wilds of Indiana by his parents’ divorce. Evan desperately wants to fit in with the cool kids – or at least have the goyim attend his bar mitzvah – but first makes the fatal flaw of befriending his uncool, bookish neighbor Patrice (Violet Craghead-Way) and the sarcastic but plucky Archie (Josh Chapman).

In his attempt to fit in, Evan suddenly finds himself the matchmaker of Dan Quayle Junior High in a “Charlie Bartlett” kind of way. Both Brett (Cohen Steele), the school’s bullying football star, and Archie wish to date Kendra (Caroline Johnson), the prettiest girl in the school. Meanwhile, Patrice is harboring a pretty serious crush on Evan, and Kendra’s friend Lucy (Anjali Sharma) wants Brett for herself. Caught in the midst of these desires, Evan tries to make everyone happy.

As staged by director Anna Senechal Johnson, the all-teen cast members are charming and energetic, even if they aren’t always the powerhouse singers and dancers you’d hope for. To accommodate the demands of teen life outside of the stage, the production has been double cast; I saw the Appleton cast. Standouts include Sharma as Kendra’s backstabbing friend, Chapman’s spirited Archie – who seems to be channeling Ellen DeGeneres – and the comically expressive Ethan Dunne Stewart as Brett’s henchman Eddie.

The amiable cast helps, but there’s little in this show that reflects anyone’s actual teenage experience. Instead of delving into the unique horror of our formative years, it lists heavily into caricature.

Though selfies, Snapchat videos and their ilk abound, the execution of the show makes it feel like a relic from the ’80s or ’90s. Nerds have since gained at least a patina of coolness, if for no other reason than they can fix your iPhone. Plus, even in the home state of Vice President Mike Pence, are there no students at this junior high questioning their sexual orientation?

With a message of embracing unpopularity and, ironically, of finding your own voice, this show may play well with the age-range depicted onstage, but anyone older will long for “Mean Girls” or “Clueless” – works that covered the same turf in a more enjoyable and novel fashion.

Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Virginia Repertory Theatre’s “13” plays through Nov. 17 at the November Theatre, 114 W. Broad St. For information, visit cadencetheatre.org or call 233-4894.



Latest in Theater


Comments are closed.

More by Rich Griset

Connect with Style Weekly

Most Popular Stories

  • Still Surviving

    Still Surviving

    Los Lobos, ‘the wolves,’ bring their 50th anniversary tour to the Broadberry.
    • May 24, 2023
  • Strolling with the Symphony

    Strolling with the Symphony

    The Mile of Music trail walk concert with Richmond Symphony musicians takes place in Bryan Park – feel free to bring the dogs.
    • May 26, 2023
  • The Heat Goes On

    The Heat Goes On

    Remaining in Light with Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison at Brown's Island.
    • Jun 2, 2023
  • RPAA Announces the 2023-24 Legends on Grace Season

    RPAA Announces the 2023-24 Legends on Grace Season

    Includes local artists Ali Thibodeau, Cassidy Snider & The Wranglers, Crystal Monee Hall, and DJ Harrison
    • May 30, 2023
  • More »

Copyright © 2023 Style Weekly
Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
All rights reserved
Powered by Foundation