Flashback Friday: ’13’ is a gem for teenage audiences

Graham Phillips, right, Allie Trimm, left, and Aaron Simon Gross during a performance of 13.

Graham Phillips, right, Allie Trimm, left, and Aaron Simon Gross during a performance of 13.

A musical that celebrates the struggles of young adolescence with a teenage cast and band may not be your traditional Broadway show. But for pre-teens and teens who felt a bit left out of the Broadway community, 13 was the perfect musical.

In 13, after Evan Goldman’s parents get divorced, the soon-to-be-teen is transported from Manhattan to Appleton, Indiana where he tries his best to fit in at school so he can have the most legendary Bar Mitzvah the town has ever seen. The plot sounds like a cheesy PG movie meant for kids rather than a Broadway production with all age appeal, and unfortunately the show never gained the traction it deserved. Its inability to draw audience members over the age of eighteen was probably why the musical only ran from October 2008 to January 2009.

However, with Tony Award-winning Jason Robert Brown’s fun music and insightful lyrics and Dan Elish and Robert Horn’s witty book, 13 was a one-act musical that was too short-lived to be properly acknowledged.

The young cast and band proved to be incredibly talented throughout the show’s run on Broadway. Most musical theatre aficionados know that it is no easy task to sing or play JRB songs, let alone perform them professionally multiple times a week as a teenage actor. Fourteen-year-old Allie Trimm (Bye Bye Birdie, Allegiance), who played Evan’s new best friend Patrice, stole the show with her emotional and impressive performance of “What It Means to Be a Friend.” The cast particularly stood out in ensemble numbers such as “13/Becoming a Man,” “All Hail the Brain” and “Brand New You.” After the show’s close cast members moved on to even bigger projects, and Ariana Grande and Liz Gilles became fan-favorite regulars on Nickelodeon’s hit show Victorious.

For anyone who has been through the torture of adolescence it is very easy to relate to the characters of 13. The show hits all of those awkward yet unforgettable teen experiences, from desperately trying to be accepted by peers, to fights with friends over petty drama, to first love. The penultimate song, “A Little More Homework,” highlights both the good and bad moments of growing up to which everyone can relate.

The fact that 13 is intended to be performed by an all-teenage cast has inspired many productions that have helped the musical live on after its Broadway run. Regional and community theatres, high schools, performing arts camps and even the West End have all put on their own productions of 13 with their own talented teenage casts.

Despite the somewhat harsh critical reception, 13 was ultimately an uplifting musical meant for theatre fans in the same age range as the cast. It was not the most groundbreaking show in Broadway history, nor was it exactly on par with the rest of the 2008/2009 Broadway season. But it was entertaining, hilarious and relatable, especially for the teenage crowd who occupied the seats.

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  1. My high school did a production of 13! Such a good show.