Chelmsford Young Gen’s – “13” – A musical story about becoming a teenager, a boy in a new town and young love… (24th April 2017)
In the world of amateur theater it is sometimes difficult to find something new, or at least, something you haven’t seen before. So tonight I went to see Chelmsford’s ‘Young Gen’ production of 13 the musical. So what’s it about? A story about all the bad luck in the world? No! Not that kind of thirteen.. or is it? The story is based around turning thirteen and all the trials you face growing up. A kind of High School The Musical meets Looserville , with a little bit of Fiddler thrown in for good measure if you like.
The story begins when New Yorker Evan Goldman (Played by Charlie Toland), a young Jewish boy, talks of his becoming a man and looking forward to the best Bar Mitzvah ever. Evan, centre stage, is joined by his class mates as he hands out the invites and the cast build the intensity in a ‘Busted’esk style routine. A number full of youth and abundant vigour gets the musical off to a great start – only to be interrupted by Evan’s mother calling him on his mobile and destroying his dream. His parents are splitting up and he is moving to Indiana!
Thirteen is a show with many parts for a cast to play and each has its own nuance making it individual from the other. The part of Patrice is one such role. Played well by Heather Nye, as she takes an emotional journey through the ensuing scenes. Shunned by her peers, let down by her new friend Evan, yet deep down inside the beating heart of a teenager begins to stir. In stark contrast, enter on stage the swagger of Brett (Played by Matt Barnes) in what can only be described as the most unlikely wooing technique. But it seemed to work as he got the girl (Kendra – Played by Phoebe Walsh)! Both parts were played well and casting seems to have been just right – Football champ and all round Mr Popular meets ditsy cheerleader. But love, or getting Mr Popular, is not quite so easy when supposed ‘BFF’ Lucy (Played by Hope Davis) is on the scene. Played well by Hope, her crafty and underhanded tricks certainly made the character one to watch out for; however, vocally I feel Hope struggled in some of her numbers. In fact this is true of many of the cast, which I put down to a combination of first night nerves and a issue with the balance of sound. Often cast seemed to be shouting the louder sections which lead to a few tuning issues, which is my only real criticism of the show.
Other nice characterisations were performed by ’The Girls’ Cassie, Charlotte and Molly (Oliva Khattar, Lois Chapman and Amy Hollingsworth) and not to forget Archie, Exquisitely portrayed by Oliver Gardener, who eked out every bit of comedy from the role. But with all this, wait for it… They were all upstaged by the Jersey boys of Malcolm, Eddie and Richie (Reuban Beard, Matt Wickham and Jack Toland). What dream parts to play and a very good lesson for all budding young actors. Not all principle roles and certainly leading principle roles are the best parts to play. Well done for bringing an enjoyable slant on musical style in the show.
A show where musical style was so varied it gave us pop and hip-hop to soul and a touch of traditional ‘Musical Theatre’ meaning all the numbers had a separate identity, something a lot of modern musical seem to lack. The imaginative use of the set with revolving flats kept the movement of the scenes flowing and led to the feel of youth and that time in school throughout many of the numbers. However, youth theatre is about learning the craft and the art of entering and exiting, whilst ensuring the flats were returned to the closed position, was far from the minds of some members of the cast. The occasional arm reaching out from behind the scenes was evident, but it was clear that, for some, the stagecraft had been learnt as they went out of their way to set the scenery right.
So thank you for a new and enjoyable all-round experience… Well done to Young Gen for doing it! All too often these lesser known musicals are put on the back burner as they are too risky financially for societies to put on. But how are they to become known if nobody does them. Bravo and here is to a good run!