Review: ETC's 13: the musical is a truly impressive feat

Review: ETC's 13: the musical is a truly impressive feat

Allyson Fournier

Featuring a cast, band, crew and creative team comprised entirely of 13-25 year olds, Eternal Theatre Collective's production of "13: The Musical" is full of catchy songs, surprising humour, and fantastic young talent. "13" follows Evan Goldman, a young boy from New York who is hoping to have the best bar mitzvah ever on his upcoming thirteenth birthday. However, his plans are derailed when his parents announce their divorce, and Evan is forced to move with his mother to Appleton, Indiana. Now Evan must navigate a new town, new school, and new peers, all while still planning his epic bar mitzvah.

Within his first month in Appleton, Evan meets Patrice, a friendly "geek" who everyone at school hates for an undisclosed reason, and Archie, an affable guy who suffers from a terminal degenerative muscle disease. Archie's crutches, however, don't deter him from cracking jokes and pursing the most popular girl in school, Kendra, who is also being pursued by the most popular guy in school, Brett, who is being pursued by Kendra's evil best friend, Lucy. Amid all this drama, Evan must choose between his friends and the popular kids, who refuse to attend Evan's party if Patrice is also going to attend. What's a self-absorbed thirteen-year-old new kid to do? Dump the geek, of course. The story is simple and touches on typical high-school tropes, so Jason Robert Brown's music and this production's strong cast are what makes the show entertaining. There's no shortage of talent on the Red Gate Revue Stage during this show.

Notable performances include Colette Richardson (Patrice) and Matthew Tucker (Archie), who respectively are like a young Mandy Moore and Robin Williams. Both have amazing stage presence and provide earnest performances as the most likeable characters. Richardson's voice is crystal clear and she belts out high notes with ease, especially during the heart-wrenching ballad "What It Means To Be A Friend". Speaking of voices, Jen Shannon's stands out. While her portrayal as the backstabbing Lucy is a bit too typical mean girl, she provides the most developed vocals and has obviously had some good training. Cameron Leong and Jeremy Cruz provide the comic relief for the evening as Brett's two clueless thugs, Eddie and Malcolm. Ryan Horton  (Brett) and Kendra Cordick (Kendra) round out the core cast and avoid archetyping their characters, which is refreshing. Elias Verheyen's performance as Evan is fine, though he seems to struggle with some of the higher notes in JRB's challenging vocal score. Technically the production is smooth enough, save for some awkward scene changes and mics cutting out at the beginning.

While her portrayal as the backstabbing Lucy is a bit too typical mean girl, she provides the most developed vocals and has obviously had some good training. Cameron Leong and Jeremy Cruz provide the comic relief for the evening as Brett's two clueless thugs, Eddie and Malcolm. Ryan Horton  (Brett) and Kendra Cordick (Kendra) round out the core cast and avoid archetyping their characters, which is refreshing. Elias Verheyen's performance as Evan is fine, though he seems to struggle with some of the higher notes in JRB's challenging vocal score. Technically the production is smooth enough, save for some awkward scene changes and mics cutting out at the beginning.

The energy of the young cast makes up for it in bounds, however, and it's worth reiterating that the production team and band are also all under 25 years old. A youth-driven, full-fledged production is a truly impressive feat, and overall the show is hilarious and entertaining.

"13" runs this weekend only at the Revue Stage on Granville Island. Tickets are available on the Brown Paper Tickets website.

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