13 THE MUSICAL
Young Gen at the Cramphorn Theatre
Jason Robert Brown's ground-breaking musical – now almost ten years old – was notable for casting players, and musicians, entirely from talented teenagers.
Now, in the cosy Cramphorn, our own talented youngsters give this rather uninspired show a lively, polished outing, directed by Jimmy Hooper. There's plenty of teenage humour, and all the accents are consistently convincing, too.
It's the story of young Evan who leaves New York for Indiana after his parents split up, and as he prepares for his bar mitzvah, discovers, to no-one's surprise, how awful kids can be to each other, and how hard it is to be thirteen.
He's played by Charlie Toland, very good in his final speech, and convincingly awkward and insecure, though he might have earned more sympathy by using eye contact to connect with the whole audience. Two other “losers” are excellently played by Oliver Gardner as Archie, using his life-limiting illness to manipulate his peers, and Heather Nye as the bookish Patrice – the freak – a very engaging performance, impressively sung.
Villains of the piece are bone-headed jock Brett [Matt Barnes], well supported by a terrific trio of cronies – their numbers some of the best moments of the evening. And the horrendously jealous, controlling Lucy, very effectively characterised by Hope Davis. Victim of her wiles, the wholesome cheerleader Kendra, appealingly played by Phoebe Walsh.
The huge ensemble is inventively used, from the energetic opening number, through the movie theater to the stunning “Brand New You” finale. I liked the gossip number, and the mad moment of Heidi wigs and Busby Berkeley. And I was pleased to see the Rabbis replaced by five geekish cameos for Being A Geek.
The set wisely doesn't try to bring us the gymnasium, the Dairy Queen or the girls' bathroom. Instead there are ingenious revolving panels and two staircases, all plastered with stickers and collages. And, high above the action, Bryan Cass and his musicians, driving the rock and reggae rhythms.
production photograph: Barrie White-Miller