Note: This album review is a guest post by Nicole McCray.
Musicals may not always last long on Broadway, but many sometimes become popular with the community and high school theaters. This is also the case for 13: The Musical: a comedy that celebrates the coming of age that people face, with some comic relief and fun songs thrown in for added entertainment.
Many Broadway musicals have seen success when transitioning from stage to screen. Ones like In The Heights and Tick, Tick, Boom! have been well received by audiences who love both on-stage and movie versions. But, some haven't been as successful with the change to on-screen, like Cats and Dear Evan Hansen.
The pre-teen 13: The Musical focuses on Evan Goldman, whose life is uprooted when he has to move to a small town in Indiana after his parent's divorce. It's a challenging time for someone in school when at this age, friends are everything. Evan's looming Bar Mitzvah makes the pressure of finding a friend circle all the more necessary.
The concept of turning 13 and turning your life upside-down is nothing new. Somehow, though, with the added musical soundtrack, the musical comes off as fun and fresh. It touches on many trials that young adolescents face in the wake of having to move somewhere new and how to find themselves.
Tracy McKenna, a co-founder of Music To Your Home out of New York City, states, “The cast all have very clear, strong voices and good comedic timing, which makes it an enjoyable film to watch. The best part about the movie adaptation is that you feel the kids are real kids - not some twenty-year-olds pretending to be much younger than they are. It's rewarding to see and helps to resonate with real adolescents."
The movie cast does justice to Jason Robert Brown's score, tackling some challenging songs, including “I’ve Been Waiting” and the title song that is sure to get stuck in your head, “The Lamest Place in the World.”
While the musical soundtrack score can sometimes make things seem out of place on screen, this adaptation doesn’t feel arbitrary. Instead, the songs help drive the plot of being honest on an emotional level. Another plus that McKenna noticed was how "refreshing” it was to see that there are very few instances of seeing kids stuck on social media.
Some new numbers in the movie adaptation are separate from the original score on stage. The song "The Bloodmaster" is similar to the stage version's "All Hail The Brain," adding horns and a fabulous bass line. The initial opening song, "13/Becoming a Man," really pulls you into wanting to see what happens next, and you're not disappointed.
The best part of the movie-musical on Netflix is that each time a song starts, they really stand out. The songs are mostly catchy, upbeat, and bound to make an impact on their audience. The other stand-out factor is the dancing, which is as impressive to watch as to listen to the voices.
The cheerleading chant song “Opportunity” brings in the usual teenage feelings of jealousy and is something you might see in a show like Glee or reminiscent of Grease's days.
The character of Archie is a nerd with confidence, approaching his challenges with a positive outlook. He is an excellent demonstration of muscular dystrophy on stage. He doesn't get nearly enough screen time, though, and he misses the opportunity for a signature song to really define him, hanging out only in the background.
They cut the song "Hey Kendra," but it makes sense to go along with keeping away from the typical school stereotypes that the stage musical includes, like the popular ‘dumb blonde’ and the jock who's a bully.
They do, however, demonstrate the typical ‘cool kids' crowd, where Evan so badly wants to be included when he first gets to Indiana.
Evan, as a character, is perfectly cast. He has a wholesome factor and plays his role with sincerity. His adversity toward his father and his actions is precisely how many would act in his position.
He sees things primarily from his point of view, which is very typical from a teenage perspective. Even though his focus should be on the Bar Mitzvah, he is more interested in the after-party and making an impression on the cool kids.
Just like any feel-good family story, there are lessons to be learned by all. It can feel cringy for older musical fanatics to watch, but it is engaging for fans of High School Musical and on a more age-appropriate level. It’s a sweet film demonstrating the true meaning of friendship with a fun soundtrack you’ll be singing long after the movie ends.
Directed by Tamra Davis with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and Christopher Lennertz and a screenplay by Robert Horn, '13: The Musical' is now streaming on Netflix.