13 going on… 13!
It’s October 5, 2021. I have been excited to write this for so long, but today is the 13th anniversary of 13 the Musical opening on Broadway. This is peak young millennial to Millen-Z/cusp and older gen Z Broadway nostalgia.
The show was both before its time and a product of its time, with some of the work needing alterations for the upcoming film, but it came before the main push of teen musicals [aside from Runaways and Spring Awakening]. It was also a short-lived show, at least partly because of the financial struggles of opening during the recession and being a cast [and most of the pit] entirely comprised of teenagers. If you haven’t listened to the score by now, I encourage you to do so before the film’s release.
13 takes a look at a child of divorced [or rather, divorcing] parents becoming Bar Mitzvah in a new environment. This topic, of course, was also dealt with in Falsettos but didn’t focus as much on the kid’s perspective, and here, we get insight from the boy’s peers.
The other issues lightly addressed are peer pressure, middle school dating culture, gossip, popularity, and the real fears and stresses of adolescence.
A missed opportunity [mainly because of COVID] is a reunion party styled after a Bar Mitzvah reception.
Here are 13 highlights from 13 that I want to draw some attention to:
- If you know me well, you know that the left and right hands in “Get Me What I Need” both fascinate and frustrate me with their deceptive simplicity but complexity together, which is no shock; JRB’s music is hard on purpose, even when it’s for kids. I appreciate his not treating kids with kid gloves.
- When Aaron Simon Gross as Archie says, “I’ve always felt this kinship with the Jewish people.”
- Christopher Gatelli choreographed this? and there are occasional moments of acro?
- This show’s “It Gets Better” message somehow predates Dan Savage’s, and I love that. Another moral, that we’re never done learning and growing and that no one is perfect, really hits home harder in this era, and I’m floored by it still.
- The vocals of “Bad, Bad News.” The singing and arrangements, period. This music is on par with any other JRB score, especially “Getting Ready,” “If That’s What It Is,” and “A Little More Homework.”
- The Lucy and Kendra part of “Getting Ready” is surprisingly ahead of the curve with revealing how there’s no winning as a girl, considering the entire show is by grown men.
- Lucy’s lines are all indications of a much larger problem, but they’re also hilarious.
- Now that I’ve been to Indiana directly from New York City, I can appreciate the level of culture shock associated with that change in this musical even more.
- The actual haftorah and the accurate capturing of the stress around Bar Mitzvahs are highlights for me.
- The moments where the supporting characters and ensemble get to express their fears and concerns, revealing that middle school sucks for everyone, and if it didn’t, I can’t relate to you at all.
- The new film cast a disabled actor as Archie, learning from one of its most glaring past issues, and that’s growth.
- It’s fun. It’s got some real, grounded emotions, but it’s fun. It is possible to have fun and serious things in one show and allow young people to express themselves without overly sugarcoating or going into melodrama.
- Most importantly, the original Broadway run played to the strengths of the original cast and adapted with them. Subsequent productions have done the same, making it one of the most exciting pieces of theatre for people in this age group to do. I’m a little salty I never did.
Time for the “Where are They Now” segment:
Much of the cast has also stayed active as performers, including but not limited to MAX, aka Max Schneider, who has gone on a route of Nickelodeon and recording artistry. Erik Nelsen now has an Emmy for acting and a Tony for producing and was also on Nickelodeon at one point, as was Liz Gillies, who has gone on to do other TV work. Graham Phillips is a TV star in his own right. Al Calderon went on the X factor and kept performing; Riley Costello, the current Boq in Wicked. Corey John Snide, Joey La Varco, Brynn Williams, Caitlin Gann, Malik Hammond, Henry Hodges, and Allie Trimm continue to perform. And Eamon Foley, the kid who had already been in enough Broadway shows to warrant a legacy robe and wailed out an E in every performance, has gone on the bicoastal director/choreographer path. The original Archie, Aaron Simon Gross, is also transitioning to directing.
Charlie Rosen, who was in the original Broadway pit at the age of 18, has just won his first Tony for his work on the Orchestration team of Moulin Rouge. He notably was up against Tom Kitt, who was the sole adult in the pit of 13.
Lastly, Jason Robert Brown was already Jason Robert Brown. He is still Jason Robert Brown.
Oh, and Ariana Grande, I wonder what she’s been up to. [I’m kidding, she’s very successful].
I feel very old now.