Pros: Some awe-inspiring performances delivered by young people who clearly have a great future ahead of them.
Cons: Some shaky vocals at times, but this is a youth production so it’s easily forgiven.
Through its ethos of ‘hard work, discipline and dedication’ The British Theatre Academy provides accessible training for people up to the age of 23, and in this production of 13 The Musical it brings out the very best standard in youth performance; it is difficult to believe that not one of the cast is over the age of 13. With engaging performances and stage discipline rivalling that of an adult, I had to keep reminding myself that I was watching children. Their enjoyment of what they were doing was palpable – infectious – and had me reminiscing with affection about my own experiences as a child performer. Good days.
With music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, the story follows the relocation of 13-year-old Evan Goldman (Milo Panni) from New York to a sleepy Indiana town following his parents’ divorce. His bid to fit in and make new (‘cool’) friends lands him in some awkward – and often downright funny – situations. It’s a musical about finding your place in the pecking order, lessons learnt, friendship, and coming of age. It’s something every adult in the audience can relate to, which is where much of the comedy comes from: the ‘knowing’ that age brings with it.
There are moments of laugh-out-loud humour; when Evan sings about becoming a man and whenever his nerdy friend Archie (Ethan Quinn) is on the stage, audiences can expect face-ache from all the smiling. For his age, Quinn’s comedic timing is faultless. His head turns, expressions and characterisation are accomplished and a joy to watch. Likewise, school ‘jock’ Brett (Lewis Ledlie) and his groupies deliver moments of well-pitched and -executed comedy; Ledlie is thoroughly believable as Brett. There is some heartfelt singing from Madeline Banbury as Patrice and excellent character work from Isabella Pappas, who gives a convincing performance as the manipulative Lucy.
There is wonderfully-paced and eclectic choreography by Ewan Jones, who also directs. It is clear the young cast has responded well to Jones, who has nurtured some impressive performances. It can be difficult directing young people – more so than adults, in my experience, because so much more is at stake. Shattering a child’s self-esteem is something from which they might never recover, so great care must be taken – and it appears it was in this case. The cast has an abundance of confidence and creative flair, which has to be in part a result of Jones’ skill as a director and choreographer.
For a youth production, 13 The Musical is of the highest professional standard. It does all of the things theatre should do for young participants, which makes watching it a delight. A testament that artistic endeavour can improve the life chances of young people, helping them to develop transferrable skills: teamwork; discipline; creativity; confidence. If you find pleasure in seeing young people shine – or need to remind yourself of just how great they can be – you should book for this.
Music and Lyrics: Jason Robert Brown
Book: Dan Elish and Robert Horn
Director and Choreographer: Ewan Jones
Musical Director: Chris Ma
Producer: Matthew Chandler-Garcia
Box Office: 020 7395 5405
Booking Link: https://www.theambassadorstheatre.co.uk/Online/default.asp?doWork::WScontent::loadArticle=Load&BOparam::WScontent::loadArticle::article_id=18FE06EB-59C9-431B-8926-A6D1309A0B55
Booking Until: 23 August 2017