Home » London Theatre Reviews » Jason Robert Brown’s 13 at London’s Cadogan Hall | Review

Jason Robert Brown’s 13 at London’s Cadogan Hall | Review

Presented in concert form, the acoustics in Cadogan Hall weren’t, at least from my vantage point, optimal for the quick-fire (and often witty) lyrics in this Jason Robert Brown musical. But it’s not, in any event, difficult to follow the narrative, which drew out, with painstaking accuracy, the relentless plotting and scheming of high school life. Evan Goldman (Edward Flynn-Haddon) isn’t happy about moving from New York to Appleton, Indiana. Spoiler alert: if you’ve never heard of such a place before, it’s because there is no actual Appleton in Indiana. The point is that he’s moved away from the Big Apple, and the show doesn’t denigrate any real places by setting the story in a fictional town.

'13' photo by Eliza Wilmot.
’13’ photo by Eliza Wilmot.

It isn’t, in the end, quite so much that he’s no longer in the most densely populated major city in the United States but that, at his age (the show’s title being a giveaway), he has the challenge of making new friends in a school environment where more or less everybody already knows more or less everybody else. To do this, he sets about getting on the side of the popular pupils, who have a de facto leader in Brett Sampson (Samuel Menhinick), who is invariably flanked by Malcolm (Timi Akinyosade) and Eddie (Joe Millington). Brett has his eyes set on Kendra (Rebecca Nardin), and Evan is roped into play matchmaker. Throw in Lucy (Zoe Forward), who has a crush on Brett, and Archie (Ethan Quinn, reprising the role from the British Theatre Academy’s 2017 production), who also has a crush on Kendra, and it hardly takes a genius to work out everyone is in for a bumpy ride.

This version of the show has the feel of students watching a game in the school gymnasium, with much of the ensemble (and most of the principal cast not in any given scene) looking on at proceedings. Ivy Pratt as Patrice puts in a strong and heartfelt performance, particularly in ‘What It Means To Be A Friend’, while Ethan Quinn as Archie has exquisite comic timing. The evening, in the end, belongs to Edward Flynn-Haddon in the lead role, with a confident and assured stage presence and every line delivered with crystal clarity.

The choreography (Corin Miller) is often sprightly and fluid, commensurate with the energy of the young cast and their characters, even if the most extraordinary dance movement is apparently something that only one person out of a cast of over one hundred can do. The plot is far from ground-breaking, and ultimately filled with ‘first world problems’, though there is some applicability in adult situations, such as workplace dynamics: some of the teenagers in the show behave better than grown-ups in the real world do. A hearty coming of age story delivered by an enthusiastic and first-rate company.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

‘13’ tells the story of 13-year-old Evan, a young Jewish geek whoss parents divorce, forcing a move from New York to small-town Indiana, where he has to make enough friends just in time for his Bar Mitzvah.

The musical, which famously launched the performing career of Ariana Grande, and is currently being adapted for Netflix as a movie, is making its first return to London since BTA’s five-star production at the Ambassadors Theatre in 2017.

The British Theatre Academy, led by producer Matthew Chandler-Garcia, provides free performing opportunities for young artists each summer to “limit barriers to training and ensure the future of UK theatre is diverse in all demographics and world-leading in terms of quality”.

https://cadoganhall.com/

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