REVIEW: 13 THE MUSICAL (Ambassadors Theatre) ★★★★
After several successful shows, The British Theatre Academy are back in London at the Ambassadors Theatre with ’13 The Musical’. The show with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown (The Last Five Years, Parade, Songs For A New World) was originally performed on Broadway with a cast no older than the titles age- even the band were a group of teenagers. With a total cast of 42 kids to make up the run, The British Theatre Academy are singing and dancing their way into the West End for British audiences.
To begin our story; we meet Evan Goldman who is as he puts it- is about to become a man. Evan’s thirteenth birthday bar mitzvah is creeping up and he’s desperate for a huge party with all his friends. The only catch is that his parents have just split up and he must move from New York to Indiana with his Mum where he knows nobody. Determined to make sure his bar mitzvah is a success, Evan befriends geeky kids Patrice and Archie. When he arrives at his new school, Evan realises that his new friends are the outcasts and he must decide what is more important- popularity or friendship?
All the kids in the production are superb, they radiate energy across the theatre and I won’t be surprised if we see a lot of their faces in future West End performances. Milo Panni was utterly charming as Evan and is soon to be a heart throb in older productions. Madeline Banbury played an endearing and shy Patrice but certainly didn’t shy away from her wonderful vocal range. The entire production however was stolen by Ethan Quinn as Archie; a small boy with a terminal illness and the most positive outlook on life. Ethan exudes comedic timing and left the audience in pain from smiling so much in his scenes. The show is double cast to make up the run and from the standard I saw on the night I watched, I am sure the other cast are just as brilliant.
There aren’t many shows that directly relate to this age group and ‘13 The Musical’ certainly stands out from others like ‘High School Musical’ and ‘Fame’. This modern day piece has a very witty script and a memorable score that you’ll want to download as soon as you’re home. The production explores themes such as friendship, bullying, love, and coming of age, as well as it gives nods to Jewish heritage and modern day society. I particularly liked the extra touches made to the show including the map backdrop that tells us where we are in scenes and the use of fidget spinners. The cast need a little more polishing on American accents and perhaps some work to make choreography slicker, but neither of these factors deterred from an excellent show. ’13 The Musical’ can only get better from here, and it only has a weeks run so make sure you get tickets!
Reviewed by Ellie Devonshire
Photo: Roy Tan