By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Being 13 is hard.
Maybe singing and dancing about it makes it better.
The Horizon Youth Theatre is staging the Jason Robert Brown musical “13: The Musical” this weekend at the Otsego High auditorium, Thursday, Oct. 4 and Saturday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. (http://bgindependentmedia.org/tickets-available-now-for-hyts-13-the-musical/)
The cast of teen actors are not far removed from those troublesome years. The script by Dan Elish and Robert Horn plays heavily on the social aspects of being in junior high. There’s nary an adult mentioned, save for the lead character’s mother, and the off-stage voice of a rabbi.
This is all about the kids, and their relationships with their peers and their own emerging personalities.
The musical opens with Evan (Thomas Long) singing about turning 13, when everything changes. He’s looking forward to his bar mitzvah which he envisions as a wild party with the hottest DJ in the city and dancing.
Then he learns his parents are divorcing, and he and his mother are moving to Appleton, Indiana, where he knows no one.
Who will come to his bar mitzvah now?
Certainly Patrice (Terra Sloane) his new neighbor who befriends him, and he wants the in-crowd led by quarterback Brett (Isaac Douglass). And there lies the conflict on which the whole plot hinges. Patrice, a girl who thinks for herself, is an outcast, and if she goes then none of the “cool” kids will attend, or at least so sayeth alpha boy-child Brett.
All this leads to about 90 minutes of navigation through the circles of middle school hell.
The hierarchy is familiar — the jocks and cheerleaders and the nerds. The script keeps the divisions simple and clear.
Evan, who is both determined and quite confused, has to be on one side or the other, as much as he tries in his awkward almost 13-year-old way to straddle them.
He ingratiates himself to Brett by suggesting how he can get close enough to Kendra (Anne Weaver) to get some “tongue.”
The idea is to go to a horror movie, an R-rated horror movie, and that means getting Evan’s off-stage mom to buy the tickets.
So he enlists Archie (M. Clifford). Archie has muscular dystrophy and walks using crutches, to ask his mother because “no one says ‘no’ to a boy with a terminal illness.”
Archie is the most interesting character. Archie understands his dilemma and that he must scheme to get anything. When he and Evan scheme together, though, things are bound to go awry.
Throw into the mix another schemer Lucy (Scarlet Frishman) supposedly Kendra’s best friend, who really has her sights set on Brett.
The fragility of these relationships plays out in the songs, which have a retro rock sound. “Hey Kendra” sung by Brett’s posse Malcolm (Gavin Miller) and Eddie (Bob Walters) sounds like a barbershop quartet singing on a corner.
The lyrics are full of clever turns. Brett pondering when he’ll make his move on Kendra during the movie sings of how everyone “is immersed in all the blood vessels bursting” on the screen.
Sloane’s Patrice gets to sing the heart-wrenching number about “What It Means To Be a Friend.”
And then late in the show, she and Long’s Evan do that musical theater routine where they perform a song, “Tell Her” supposedly about others, but really about themselves.
The 13-member cast seems to enjoy reflecting on a time not so far in the past. Their performance will evoke memories for their parents and other adult members of the audience. They may not all be altogether happy memories, but they’ll be entertaining nonetheless.