Adelaide Youth Theatre’s latest offering, Jason Robert Brown’s 13: A New Musical, showcases some great young talent to look out for in the future.
Evan, played by Benji Riggs, is a 12 year old Jewish boy from New York who has to adapt to a new life in Indiana. The story weaves in common early teen issues of fitting in, selecting the right friends, and determining what is important and what isn’t.
The core cast is rounded out with Sarah Thorpe as Patrice, Jamie Hornsby as Archie, Georgia Payze as Lucy, Madeleine Russell as Kendra and James “beatles” O’Brien as Brett. Supporting roles of Malcolm, Eddie, Richie, Simon, Charlotte, Molly and Cassie are filled by Christian Bartlett, Connor Olsson-Jones, Ben Francis, Benjamin Maio Mackay, Helen Smith, Melissa Pullinger and Sarah Polanco respectively.
The simple set of a raised walk, stairs, minimal furniture and projection on to a backdrop, allows for quick transitions and action to take place at different levels. The only suggestion for set changes would be to ensure that the cast on stage move clear of the backstage crew, as it makes the transitions look cluttered rather than covering a change.
Riggs plays Evan well, keeping his accent, understanding the emotions, and feeling the role in order to portray it smoothly. Payze is another natural, conveying the sass and attitude well, and singing to the audience with a voice that commands attention. Hers will be a name to look out for in the future. Thorpe, has a lovely voice and, whilst her character is supposed to be awkward, a bit of creativity in the direction of her stance may make it more believable as a character, rather appearing that Thorpe is uncomfortable on stage. Hornsby, as the other awkward social outcast, plays his role with confidence, clear enunciation and good movement to stress his disability, without making a caricature of it.
Jason Robert Brown’s music is known for being difficult and the cast, for the most part, manage the score well. Most show that they understand the lyrics to convey the right message, giving light and shade and congruent body language.
The performance was, however, hampered by technical sound issues with the band’s amplification being set to high, drowning out the singers, sound not being lifted at the right time, and balances not being corrected, causing the lead to be drowned out by the chorus and the band when Riggs’ microphone failed. Given the intricacy of Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics, it was disappointing to miss phrases.
Whilst the rest of the season is sold out, it will be interesting to see how these youngsters develop their craft with future productions.
Reviewed by Jade Kops, special guest Fringe Critic, Glam Adelaide
Venue: The Stables, Adelaide College of the Arts, 39 Light Square, Adelaide
Tickets: Sold out
Duration: 110 min