Fresh new musical is one not to miss

Fresh new musical is one not to miss

South Wales Evening Post, 16 July 2010

HOT on the heels of Godspell, which was a sensation on the Grand's main stage, comes another production from the acclaimed Class Act Theatre School, this time staged in the more intimate surroundings of the Arts Wing’s Depot Studio.

The story revolves around Evan (Matthew Bawden), a Jewish boy from New York who, upon the breakup of his parents’ marriage, is relocated to Appleton, Indiana, which he describes as “a town where UFOs go to refuel”.

He forms a bond with two fellow outsiders, geeky Patrice (Kate Harwood) and disabled Archie (Christian Webb), but his desire to be accepted in school leads him to fall in with a gang of fair-weather friends led by Brett (Ashley Rogers), the school jock and football quarterback.

Add to all this the fact that Brett and Archie both have their eye on the same girl, Kendra (Anona Davies), while her bitchy best friend Lucy (Anna Bevan) is on a mission to ensnare Brett herself, and you begin to see that this is a very tangled web indeed.

Music and dance are an integral part of the narrative, and director Jill Williams has triumphed in bringing out the best in a large and enthusiastic company of performers. The production numbers are impressively staged, and while the songs are at times complex and seem difficult to learn and sing, these young people manage to deliver them with real understanding and total commitment.

Essentially, this is a rites-of-passage story revolving around growing up and the need for acceptance – and while there are undoubtedly risqué elements in some of the songs and dialogue, it is ultimately a tale which is the antithesis of musicals such as Grease, in which the only way to be accepted by one's peers is to fall into line with everyone else.

In 13, the message is that being different is cool, and that one should never surrender one's individuality in order to become one of the crowd.

13 ends its run at the Grand Arts Wing on Saturday. Highly recommended.

Written by Graham Williams

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