Friday 18 August 2017


13 The Musical at Ambassadors Theatre

Photo credit: Roy Tan
I first became aware of 13 The Musical back in 2012 when the National Youth Music Theatre performed songs from the show at West End Live and I was instantly hooked. The tunes by Jason Robert Brown (of The Last 5 Years, Honeymoon in Vegas, Songs for a New World fame) were immensely catchy and I've been keen to see a full version of this musical ever since. And I finally got a chance to do so this week with the British Theatre Academy's incredible West End version comprised of a mega-talented cast of young performers. Combined with the funny book and excellent score it makes this production an absolute must-see.

Evan's (Milo Panni) entire life has been leading up to the moment he turns 13 years old and, according to Jewish traditions, becomes a man. He's invited all his friends and classmates for the biggest social event of the year, his bar mitzvah, when his parents drop a massive bombshell: they're getting a divorce and Evan is moving with his mum from the heart of NYC to middle-of-nowhere Indiana.

As the new kid in school he has to navigate the tricky waters of social stigmas, labels and cliques, all while still trying to plan his big party. But as he strikes deals with the people in school to get them to come to his bar mitzvah he needs to decide between trying to become one of the cool, popular kids or true friendship; which is most important?

Sure, the book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn on the surface may not sound that much different from every other high school story out there. And to be fair, the geek vs jock dynamic has been done many times before but with razor-sharp and witty lines, delivered by a cast of insanely talented young performers (to befit the characters which are no older than the show's title, making the story a little younger than the average teen flick), it becomes something truly special.

And I haven't even mentioned Jason Robert Brown's incredible music and lyrics yet, which really bring out the very best in this show. With a touch of The Last 5 Years (arguably his best work to date) and Loserville (a sadly short-lived West End show fuelled by the music of James Bourne's Son of Dork that will always have a solid space in my musical theatre top 10), the fresh soundtrack to 13 The Musical is made up of non-stop catchy tunes.

Particular highlights includ The Lamest Place in the World (the first time in the show we get to hear Madeline Manbury as Patrice perform, and wow what a killer voice! She would make a great addition to the School of Rock cast), All Hail the Brain/Terminal Illness (one of the many times Ethan Quinn as Archie stole the show with his on-point comedic delivery), Hey Kendra (another hilarious tune, this time around showing a different side to the jocks in the show), and Opportunity (a song with a killer rock beat and a powerful performance by Isabella Pappas as Lucy).

It really is an amazing achievement for a group of such young performers to put on a full-blown West End production. And to do it to this incredible standard? I was hugely impressed. Not only that, but the show I saw was their first public performance, making the fact that they were already so good even more astonishing. They are the future stars within musicals and I feel privileged to have seen them at the start of their theatrical careers.

13 The Musical is a proper feel-good show; fresh, hilarious and so much fun! And with the insanely talented cast currently heading up this West End production it truly cannot be missed. Sadly it has a very limited run until just Wednesday next week, so make sure you clear some time in your calendar to see it asap. At just 90 minutes in length with no interval it is the perfect bite-sized mid-week (theatre) outing, so you don't have any excuse to miss out!

13 The Musical is playing at the Ambassadors Theatre until 23 August 2017. Book your tickets here.

1 comment:

  1. What fun! I love a good show with some catchy tunes!


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