As a teenager myself, I was excited to go see a Broadway musical about teenagers (and performed by teenagers, not young-looking grown-ups). 13 is about a young kid named Evan Goldman (Graham Phillips) who’s forced to leave his hometown of New York City for Appleton, a small town in Indiana — where, in the shark-infested corridors of middle school, he has to make friends and get accepted.
I was hooked by the opening number, ”13.” The lyrics were catchy, and the number showcased the performers’ dancing and vocal abilities right off the bat. Most of the dancing was simple, but there were some impressive gymnastics too. As the story moved along, it sounded a little familiar — Evan’s got to get the cool kid, Brett (Eric M. Nelsen), to come to his bar mitzvah or nobody else will. But even though the plot seemed a little trite, the lyrics, which were terrific, made up for it. There was a little High School Musical cheesiness at some points, with the ”we can do this” and ”we’re all in this together” attitudes, but the show’s creators kept it funny by poking fun at Brett’s stupidity and popular girl Lucy’s temper. However, the showdown between Lucy (Elizabeth Egan Gilles) and her friend Kendra (Delaney Moro) — over Brett, of course — was a little too Mean Girls to be completely realistic, as was all the intense bullying. Sure, bullying goes on in all schools, but generally not to the extent that kids can’t walk on the same sides of the hallway together. In contrast, Evan’s anxieties over what the kids at his new school would think of him, and how successful his bar mitzvah would be, seemed completely real. Every kid agonizes about how they’ll be labeled by their classmates. And the song ”It Can’t Be True,” where all the girls text each other the latest gossip, was dead-on: It’s exactly how rumors get spread.
So while some details in the show were unrealistic, most were completely plausible, especially the costumes (a bunch of the kids were dressed in Abercrombie & Fitch) and the sets (Kendra’s bedroom was covered in posters of the Jonas Brothers and Zac Efron). The little touches made the show funny and faithful to what it’s like to turn 13. And the music made up for any plot shortcomings and carried the whole evening. A- (Tickets: Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200)