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Has Jason Robert Brown's musical '13' come of age?

October 3, 2008 | 10:52 am

13_ii The musical "13," which had its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in 2007, opens Sunday on Broadway , and the big question is:  Has the show matured enough to succeed on the Great White Way.

The producers had better make a collective birthday wish, because if this pubescent musical is anything like it was in L.A., it's going to be one angsty road.  Naturally, we wish the new set of kids luck. But in an economic downturn, who's going to want to pay Broadway prices for what amounted to, in my estimate, a glorified "Afterschool Special"?

OK, an "Afterschool Special" staged with "superlative artistry and verve," as my L.A. Times review pointed out.  But come on: How many middle-schoolers do you know with that kind of allowance?

Fortunately, new talent has been brought in. Jason Robert Brown, who won a Tony for "Parade," is still the show's bubblegum-rock composer and lyricist, but Robert Horn now is collaborating with children's author Dan Elish on the book, which received a "needs improvement" grade at the Taper.  One disappointing change: Todd Graff, whose film “Camp” examined the wacky world of musical theater youth and who did a buoyant theatrical job with "13" in L.A., is no longer directing. The new director is Jeremy Sams, the guy who adapted the Broadway production of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" -- so obviously an expert on annoying children's fluff.   

The story, a popularity crisis involving a Jewish kid who moves from New York City to small-town Indiana, was problematic on so many levels, not least for the way a "special needs" student was used as a foil in the lame-brained plot.  But as any former pimply adolescent can attest, dramatic improvements aren't so far-fetched.            

-- Charles McNulty

Photo: "13" at the Mark Taper Forum. Credit: Beatrice de Gea / For The Times

Comments () | Archives (1)

“No you’re not ready, not it’s not time yet, no it’s not right now, wait until you’re older.” Phrases I’m sure you heard time and time again when you were younger. Not this time. 13 The Musical, an amazing new show has broken this mold and thanks to them we’ve been able to welcome Broadway’s first all teen cast and band!

The story starts in New York City with Evan Goldman as he is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah. Unfortunately, his parents go through a bitter divorce and he is forced to move to the small town of Appleton, Indiana, a.k.a. the lamest place in the world. There, he meets his neighbor Patrice and they become friends. Once school starts Evan finds the need to do everything in his power to have the best Bar Mitzvah ever. So he leaves Patrice, the quirky, offbeat, and even geeky girl, for the cool crowd.

13 The Musical goes through all the highs and lows of becoming a teenager. Crushes, jealousy, gossip, friendships, enemies, drama, break-ups, make-ups, and even make-outs! This high-energy show is filled with talented actors and musicians and is a definite must see for anyone who has gone through or is planning on being 13.


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