Last time I checked in with a report on Jason Robert Brown's new musical 13 was just over 13 months ago.
At the time, I noted that the tuner about thirteen 13 year olds was being prepped for a Broadway bow sometime in early 2008. Of course, that time frame came and went.
But since then, the show was presented by Goodspeed Musicals' Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Connecticut from May 9 through June 8. And the show has been announced for a Broadway berth.
Originally directed on year ago January by Todd Graff at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, a significantly revised version produced at Goodspeed was directed by Jeremy Sams and choreography from Christopher Gattelli. Dan Elish wrote 13's book.
On Jason Robert Brown's own blog, the award-winning composer takes note of how dramatically 13 evolved from its final performance on the Left Coast to its first on the East Coast:
The show is substantially different, in every respect, from the version produced in Los Angeles last year. First of all, just in terms of the writing itself, we've replaced more than half of the songs, re-focussed the story, added a half-hour of running time (and with it, an intermission), and probably changed every single line of the book except for four really good jokes. Paradoxically, the show is longer because it's leaner and tighter, and there is now a much straighter line from the beginning to the end. A lesson I learned this year with both 13 and the London revision of Parade is that it's all too easy to let a secondary character hijack the show. I know we solved it in Parade by cutting down Britt Craig's role; I think we've now solved it in 13.Brown also discusses the difference a director makes:
Most importantly, we have a new director, Jeremy Sams, who has been invaluable both in his ability to cut the fat away from the story and in his understanding of the way music functions in the show. The fact that Jeremy is a formidable musician in his own right doesn't hurt. In fact, Jeremy is a terrifying polymath; a quick look at his résumé shows that he has directed successful plays and musicals on Broadway and the West End, as well as having written film scores, lyrics and books of musicals, and translations and adaptations of classic and obscure plays (from several different languages, all of which he speaks fluently). Dan and I are convinced that in the event of some horrible catastrophe, Jeremy is perfectly equipped to take over any and all jobs on the show, ours included.Brown acknowledges the show's most unique aspect: casting child actors and a "kid band":
None of that would matter if we didn't have the talent onstage to bring this show to life, and I'm over the moon about the cast and band that we hired. Assembling the cast took a long time, and the final group that's going into rehearsal in two weeks comes from all over the country -- New York and the tri-state area, of course, but also Los Angeles, Texas, and Florida -- and while some of the kids have résumés longer than mine, others have never done a professional production before.Of course, that blog post was all the way back on March 24. Although 13 has been announced for Broadway's Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, with previews tentatively slated to begin September 16, there's been precious little additional information out there regarding the show.
The band is an equally amazing group, and the band audition day was the most fun I've had in a long time; sixty-five awesomely gifted teenagers showed up and made glorious music together for seven hours. The hardest part was figuring out who to send home; all of the grownups in the room felt that we could have randomly picked five kids at any given time and ended up with a superb band. Needless to say, the five that made it to the end are exceptional. I know that kid musicians are not as used to the arbitrary and bizarre process of auditioning as kid actors are, so I wanted to take this space to thank all the musicians for coming out and playing so beautifully and rolling with the experience. Having a "kid band" is a huge experiment for a Broadway musical, but I know it's going to pay off handsomely.
Is that unlucky? Only for the countless Jason Robert Brown fans like me who can't wait to finally see this talented composer's next effort. The good news is that folks like Chris Caggiano (Everything I Know I Learned From Musicals) had decent things to say about the Goodspeed mounting (Chris called the tuner "promising").
I'm looking forward to our collective fortunes improving in the weeks ahead as more information is announced.
This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).
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Broadway Preview: The Seagull (July 1, 2008)
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Broadway Preview: A Tale Of Two Cities (June 28, 2008)
Broadway Preview: for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf (June 25, 2008)
Broadway Preview: [title of show] (June 24, 2008)
Broadway: What's Next (June 20, 2008)
Not Unlucky: 13 Headed To Broadway (May 25, 2007)
Was 13 Lucky With Critics? (January 9, 2007)
Jason Robert Brown + Mark Taper Forum = 13 (January 7, 2007)
Flashback: Best of 2002-03 (May 25, 2006)
"13" Reasons to Take in LA Theatre This Winter (May 5, 2006)