Review of 13 at the Duluth Playhouse

13 Poster

This review is not targeted at the (justifiably) proud parents of the cast of 13, nor anyone else who has tickets to the show in hand. Rather, this review is targeted at those of you who, like me, peruse the schedule of Duluth’s many arts events and consider a Children’s Theatre productionas something to skip. Which would be a shame, because to miss this show is to miss one of the true delights of this year’s theatre season.

Anyone who caught The Last Five Years at the Play Ground or, more recently, the stellar production of Parade at the Teatro Zuccone, is familiar with Jason Robert Brown’s work. His catchy, pop-infused melodies and witty lyrics are handled with panache by the young cast (and instrumental musicians) of 13. Musically, this is a very demanding show, not only because it includes a large number of songs, but because these songs often feature complex harmonies and require some pretty mature vocal acrobatics. 13 also afforded solo opportunities for many of the cast members, and not just the principles, to show their stuff. At every turn, these kids delivered, but I was particularly floored by the well-balanced harmonies and energy of the ensemble numbers.

13‘s plot certainly isn’t revolutionary: the themes of coming-of-age, navigating various school cliques, and discovering one’s true friends are present in just about every John Hughes movie. All of the familiar types are there: The New Kid, The Jock, The Geeky Girl, The Cheerleader, The Nerd, The Mean Girl. However, 13 avoids descending into after-school special territory through dark, subversive humor (case in point: one of the songs contains the lyrics “no one says ‘no’ to a boy with a terminal illness”). The dual address of the show’s humor means there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy: the sight gags and occasional off-color jokes are funny for the kids without being pandering, and adults should enjoy the clever lyrics (such as those in the self-referential “If That’s What It Is”).  Most importantly, the young cast sold the heck out of the funny bits: they really seemed to “get” the humor, and demonstrated an excellent understanding of comic timing.

With its themes of transitions and new beginnings, 13 is a particularly appropriate show for this time of year, when school is winding down and summer (finally!) appears to be on the horizon.  In 13, the Playhouse is transitioning into the summer months with plenty of momentum, thanks to these talented kids.

-What: 13.

-Where: The Duluth Playhouse.

-When: May 6-15, 2011 (Thursdays-Fridays at 7 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 7 pm, Sundays at 2 pm).

-Note:  there are some mature themes and language in this production, which may not be appropriate for very young children.



about 13 years ago

Some of Duluth's finest young actors are in this production, too.


about 13 years ago

My daughter, who still hasn't forgiven me for not letting her audition for this play (her life was seriously overloaded as it was), works backstage for the show and says it's fantastic and a must see.  Which, I realize, does not mean much to you, but she does not heap feigned praise on any show, including those she is in.  I'm looking forward to seeing it tomorrow.


about 13 years ago

My daughter saw it last night and said it was fabulous, she's going again today! We're seeing it tomorrow, so see you there, Ironic1. There are some amazingly talented young actors in this town, besides your kids and mine.


about 13 years ago

I saw it on opening night and agree with this reviewer. There's a lot of shows in town, and I understand skipping children's theater if you don't have children. But this show is really funny and would have broader appeal than usual.


about 13 years ago

I heard it was a full house last night!


about 13 years ago

I just saw "13" and want to shout from the rooftops, "GO SEE THIS PLAY!!!" The teens in it did a bang up job. Although I certainly don't want to revisit that year in my life, it was a lot of fun to watch fictional characters's not-so-dissimilar experiences unfold on stage. Kudos to everyone involved with this production for a bang up job!

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