The Red Gate Revue Stage, Granville Island, Until August 12

My Two Cents

By Lillian Jasper

There’s a lot of heart and talent in Eternal Theatre Collective’s production of 13: The Musical. There were some less-than polished elements, but there was plenty to enjoy as well. It’s the story of Evan Goldman, a young Jewish boy who moves from Manhattan to Indiana after his parents divorce, and he must contend with the drama of a small-town high school in the weeks leading up to his bar mitzvah.

In the wide range of talents on display, there were quite a few that stood out. Colette Richardson shone as Patrice, with a rich voice and confident demeanour. Jen Shannon as Lucy sang her songs with conviction and just the right amount of sass. Matthew Tucker’s gentle voice and shy charisma hit just the right tone as Archie. Two young men in the chorus, Nicholas Kluftinger and William Davis, were excellent in the moments they had and it would have been great to hear more from them. 

Unfortunately, sound issues plagued this production and many lines (both spoken and sung) were lost. The band (led by Elizabeth Suen), as fantastic as they were, tended to drown out the soloists. Though the singers used microphones on their heads, the levels didn’t seem to be mixed properly.  Perhaps due to this, there was some vocal straining from several performers. However, in the larger group numbers, these young artists showed just how well they could tackle Jason Robert Brown’s demanding score. “A Little More Homework” in particular was gorgeous and moving. 

The book of the show is not as strong as the music. Most of the characters are one-dimensional at best, and our leading almost-man, Evan, is not an especially sympathetic protagonist (he consistently forsakes the friends who accept him in favour of those who mistreat him and others). I didn’t particularly care if Brett ended up with Kendra or Lucy, because the characters are written as caricatures, and are for the most part shallow and vapid. There are a few clever lines, though, and plenty of laughs - the performers do well with what they have to work with. Hailey Fowler’s choreography felt contemporary, fresh and fun, and the energy emanating from the stage was infectious.

Eternal Theatre Collective have only been around for a few years, and are still finding their footing, but their mandate is commendable - providing opportunities to performers and artists age 13 - 25. It is difficult to be critical of a group like this, because of what they represent and all that they have achieved already. 13: The Musical gets a lot of mileage from the enthusiasm with which it is presented and there are certainly flashes of brilliance. Here’s hoping they can harness these moments and realize their full potential.