Talented Teenagers Present 13 in Auburn
Brown also wrote the scores for The Last Five Years (which attained a cult status), Parade, and the recent Bridges of Madison County. In 13, he has created (with book writers Dan Elish and Robert Horn) a sweet, if somewhat flimsy, coming of age tale of a Jewish boy uprooted from Manhattan to Indiana, where he approaches his bar mitzvah and incipient manhood with dread, and desperately tries to gain acceptance from his peers. The cast of teenage characters is reminiscent of Hairspray and "Glee," though Brown's often incisive lyrics and his knack for both solo and ensemble writing add of measure of originality to the work. Played with brio by music director Paul G. Caron and his five musicians who are placed behind an upstage scrim, the score, in which one hears echoes of Jonathan Larsen, is not especially challenging, but does require characterful and stylish delivery from the singing-actors.
Richard Martin directs with a sprightly pace and a fluid use of the theatre's wide stage. His musical staging and Vincent Ratsavong's choreography are upbeat and well executed by the ensemble, though the curtain call reprise is a big ragged. Martin also contributes the scenic and lighting design, building a set consisting of simple rolling units that move seamlessly, thanks to the well-rehearsed stage crew. His movie theatre unit with its bank of raked seats is his most effective touch, providing a perfect framework for the humorous staging of the horror film scene. Karen Mayo's costumes are colorful and contemporary, while Chad Gagnon's sound design does an admirable job of balancing orchestra and singers.
The nineteen-person cast makes a generally cohesive and committed ensemble, though their vocal skills vary. Sabrina Fisher as Kendra and Jillian Conant as Lucy make an appropriately contrasting pair of friendsKendra all dim beauty and naiveté and Lucy all manipulative self-interestand both are compelling vocalists. Likewise, Gavin and Connor Crawford bring humor and characterful singing to Malcolm and Eddie.
In the leading trio of roles, Kaitlyn Prophett is convincing dramatically as the sincere, shy, maladroit Patrice, but her musical delivery is uneven, and she is often no match for the orchestra. Her male colleagues, howeverOliver Hall as the crippled Archie and Scott Venable as the protagonist Evan Goldmanare standouts! Thirteen-year-old Hall mines the wit, pathos, and cynical wisdom of Archie with maturity beyond his years. He possesses a clear, light, well-placed tenor and an uncannily sophisticated ability to deliver a song. He is matched and complemented by fourteen-year-old Scott Venable, who is completely at home in the musical and dramatic parameters of Evan's character, exuding a boyish charm and a combination of savvy and vulnerability. Best of all, he can belt a song with poise and power just as he can command the quiet moments.
Thanks especially to these two young thespians, this production of 13 captivates its audience and reminds one of the longstanding role this company has played in nurturing many of Maine's budding theatre professionals.
13 runs through June 15 at the Great Falls Performing Arts Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn, ME. For performance and ticket information, visit www.laclt.com or call 207-793-0958.
--Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold