13 Kids…13 Stars…Pennington Players’ 13 THE MUSICAL

by Arlene Price Kohler

13 THE MUSICAL is about 13 year olds starring 13 year olds.  There are no adults on stage.  The show manages to capture that elusive time when we first step into adulthood. It encompasses the entire spectrum of adolescence without taking itself too seriously.  We all know these kids from our own youths–the football jocks, the cheerleader girlfriends, the geeks, and the gossips.  13 is based on the book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, with lyrics and music by Tony Award winner Jason Robert Brown.  The score is an energetic, youthful mix of sounds ranging from Reggae and salsa, to rock and lullaby.

The cast of 13 THE MUSICAL: New kid Evan Goldman tries to find his way in a sea of unfamiliar faces (Front row: Jared Kirsch, Caroline Purdy, Matthew Blazejewski; Standing: J Scott, Melissa Geerlof, Karaline Rosen, Tanner Mead, Meredith Brandt, Wesley Cappiello, Ellen Rothfuss, Uvay Trivedi and Natalia Maccaroni; Not pictured: Nicky Rosolino).

The story line centers on 12 year old  Evan Goldman, played by Tanner Mead, as he approaches 13 and his impending Bar-Mitzvah, after which he will be considered an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community.  His parents’ divorce has uprooted him from New York to Appleton, Indiana and Evan just wants to fit in, make friends and have someone at his Bar-Mitzvah.  Easier said than done.

The cast of kids playing these roles is stellar, most performances far exceeding my expectations.  They act and sound like Broadway professionals. The vocal harmonies, under the direction of Peter de Mets, were amazing. The choreography under the direction of John Boccanfuso was clever and exceedingly well performed.  The pit band, comprised of Charlie de Mets, Bob Gargiullo, Paul Maurer, and Ryan Ross were excellent.

Kathy Slothower’s costuming was spot on, never overtaking the actor, just enhancing.  The energy level in this show was spectacular and so contagious. 

I felt like I was at a Broadway production.

When I spoke with the director, the much too modest Laurie Gougher, I was impressed.  If I had kids of my own interested in theater they would be signed up immediately.  Laurie does a more than commendable job of bringing out the best in each performer.  I loved the ending of the show where each performer got their 30 seconds of fame, displaying some of their individual talents. 

As with any show there were some standout performances.   I’m thinking 13 with this show, 14 if we included the delightful little fellow, who was on stage crew moving cubes, and at one point stood on one and belted out a ‘Yah’ (a seriously long note).

Tanner Mead as Evan:  great command of the stage. ‘Tell Her’ , the duet with Patrice was just lovely.

Meredith Brandt as Patrice:  beautiful voice, great control…a lovely performance.

Matthew Blazejewski as Archie:  you charmed us all…as did Jared Kirsch as Eddie…great job, fellas.

Natalia Maccaroni as Lucy:  What a voice!  Loved ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Hey Kendra’…Fabulous.

Ellen Rothfuss as Kendra:  a lovely, elegant dancer.

Wesley Cappiello as Brett:  a solid performance, a bit of a bully, but we liked him…well done.

J. Scott as Malcolm:  a real standout, incredibly talented and an energetic dancer as well as performer.

Melissa Geerlof as Molly:  sharp acting skills.

Nickey Rosolini as Simon:  terrific performance, an ensemble standout.

Caroline Purdy as Cassie:  an excellent job.

Karaline Rosen as Charlotte:  ditto.

Uvay Trivedi as Richie:  ditto (again!).

Pennington Players’ 13 THE MUSICAL was truly one of the best shows I have seen this season; most certainly the best musical.  Don’t miss this one folks!

Music and Lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn
Directed by Laurie Gougher
July 29 – August 7, 2011
Pennington Players
at Kelsey Theatre
Mercer County Community College
1200 Old Trenton Road
West Windson, NJ 08550

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