Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Was 13 Lucky With Critics?
Two afternoons ago, composer Jason Robert Brown's latest musical creation 13 opened at LA's Mark Taper Forum. The tuner has received mixed to decent reviews.
Proclaiming 13 "sheer bliss" and a "celebration of the kind of teen spirit that soars rather than smells," Variety's Robert Verini heaps on the most praise: "It's actually pretty refreshing to have the everyday angst of the teen years taken so seriously. If 13 leaves out the harsher realities of adolescence, the realities it does confront are resonant, nowhere more so than in Jason Robert Brown's score. A less ambitious but no less tricky assignment than his Tony-winning Parade, songs remain true to the kids' argot and emotional core while granting aud a Broadway sound that makes us tap our toes and cheer."
Finding the show "sometimes predictable...fresh, funny and sometimes touching," the LA Weekly's Neal Weaver provides a mostly upbeat review: "This engaging, fast-moving musical (book by Dan Elish, songs by Jason Robert Brown), with its all-teenage cast, is all about being cool....And it provides ample opportunity for Brown’s high-spirited songs, and dances by Michele Lynch. But it’s the terrific teenagers, singing, playing and dancing up a storm, who make it all worth while."
Saying that 13 is "like an 'Afterschool Special' staged with superlative artistry and verve," the Los Angeles Times' Charles McNulty offers a mixed review: "Directed by Todd Graff...the production, hampered by a hackneyed book, features a mostly delightful teen cast that compensates for the work's obvious deficiencies....The story whitewashes experience in order to reassure us that we all see ourselves as different at some point....Brown's music, bubblegum rock performed by a live garage band perched on a platform above the action, serves mostly as a convenience for the plot-pushing lyrics. But to its credit, the canned guitar sound helps create the feeling of the pressurized cabin that Evan and his peers frenetically inhabit."
Noting how the "paper-thin story" is "more notable for its newbie-teen context -- 13 songs delivered by 13 actors, average age 13 -- than its content," Bloomberg's Michael Janofsky laments that Brown: "has delivered a generic show long on pubescent energy but short on substance. Apart from a passing reference to Paris Hilton and R-rated movies, it lacks any discernible links to contemporary youth culture....The joy of 13 comes from watching energized performances from so many young talents making the most of an opportunity to work under accomplished professionals like Todd Graff....It's just too bad the actors were not given more inspired material. This show will need some reality checks if it has any hope of competing on Broadway."
Will all this critical attention mean much to its target audience? Or will the $55 cost per ticket prove unlucky for 13? Other theatres nationally will no doubt be paying close attention during the weeks ahead as this show in scheduled to perform through February 18.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
Click here for tickets.
Jason Robert Brown + Mark Taper Forum = 13 (January 7, 2007)
"13" Reasons to Take in LA Theatre This Winter (May 5, 2006)