Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot follows 12-year-old Evan Goldman whose parents have recently divorced. When his mother decides to move to a small town in Indiana, Evan doesn't know how that will impact his bar mitzvah which is right around the corner. Feeling that the more people he has at his party will mean the more successful it is, he attempts to befriend as many people in his new school as possible, including his next-door neighbor Patrice and a handicapped boy named Archie. Evan also gets close to the school's jock Brett as he knows if he can get Brett to come to his bar mitzvah, the rest of the kids will follow. When Evan discovers that Patrice and Archie are considered the outcasts of the school, and if they are invited to the party Brett and the rest of the cool kids will bail, he has to decide between dumping his friends to get more people at his party or to stick close to Patrice and Archie even if that means his party will be a bust.
It may be obvious what decision Evan will make, but the smart and swift book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn creates an abundance of charming characters, interesting and funny situations, and several touching moments. The witty and clear music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown include several soaring ballads and many upbeat ensemble numbers that move the story along.
The leads in this cast are quite good. As Evan, Evan Kaushesh is charming and fun with a sweet singing voice. Adia Gleave brings a solid stage presence and a beautiful singing voice to Patrice, and Kylan Chait has perfect comic timing as Archie. All three create likable, realistic characters that you root to succeed. Declan Skaggs is bright and funny as Brett, and Olivia Feldman is cunning, conniving and appropriately bitchy as Lucy, the girl who tries to get Brett for her own. Raquel Murrietta is warm as Kendra, the girl both Brett and Evan want to date, and Boston Laney and Lynden Jarman add some fun moments as Malcolm and Eddie, two of the guys who hang on Brett's every word. There is a large ensemble who provide a lot of energy in the large musical numbers.
Director Jim Gradillas ensures that these young actors and actresses effectively show their characters' insecurities in a touching way and that they know how to make every joke and humorous moment in the show land. Musical director Lorenzo Slavin achieves some lovely harmonies from the cast and some nice sounds from the small band, though some of the kids struggle just a bit with their vocals on the sustained high notes in the score. Maile Griego's choreography is good, though a bit basic and repetitive in some numbers.
Pete Bish and Chase Budden's set design is fairly simple but effective, with static steps and some moving pieces that help to portray the various locations in the show, while Benjamin Bozovich's costumes are excellent, colorful and appropriately character specific. Dori Brown's lighting is bright and cheery, and Josh Leal's sound design makes sure the vocals and dialogue are clear.
With teen angst and issues that just about everyone dealt with when they were in school, 13 is a musical that features realistic situations and identifiable characters that will most likely bring back many memories. With a gifted cast and bright creative elements, Greasepaint presents a winning, very funny and joyful production of this charming musical that's a nice reminder that sometimes it's better to be yourself than try to be someone you're not just to try to fit in.
13 runs through March 15, 2020, at Greasepaint Youth Theatre, 7020 E. 2nd Street, Scottsdale AZ. For information and to purchase tickets call 480-949-7529 or visit www.greasepaint.org.
Directed by Jim Gradillas