13 – A Musical New to Jacksonville

Stanton College Prep School Thespian Troupe 3929 Review

Stanton College Preparatory School presented the North Florida premiere of the musical “13” during October 8 – 10, 2015, at the school’s Jacksonville campus on the Northside.

The musical made its Broadway debut in 2008, where it featured a cast filled with teenagers and ran for 105 performances. In 2014, CBS films have announced they plan to produce a film version, but haven’t as yet released any status updates about the project. The book was written by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, with music and lyrics by noted composer Jason Robert Brown, who is known to local audiences from productions of “Parade,” which has a Tony-winning score, at Players By the Sea, and “The Last Five Years” at Atlantic Beach Experimental Theatre.

At Stanton, “13” was performed by students under the age of 18 who portrayed younger characters, in their early teens. This choice of material was somewhat unusual for a high school production, as students more often are asked to portray characters who are much older than their own chronological age.

The leading character in “13” is Evan Goldman, who is looking forward to reaching an upcoming milestone, his thirteenth birthday. Evan was played by Stanton junior Andy Ratliff, who, at six-feet plus was the tallest soon-to-be thirteen teen we have ever seen. He took command of this demanding role with energetic singing and dancing. Mr. Ratliff, whom we saw in Theatre Jacksonville’s “Hairspray” last summer and in Stanton’s production of “Pippin” prior to that, was excellent as the bright and eager adolescent.

He first appears as a high-school student in New York, excited by his upcoming Bar Mitzvah and the related party, which is going to be an outstanding event. But his world changes abruptly after the unexpected divorce of his parents, followed by his moving with his mother to a new home in Appleton, Indiana. While Evan still dreams of a spectacular Bar Mitzvah, he faces the challenges of convincing the coolest kids at his new school, Dan Quayle High, to join him on this momentous day.

Evan’s first friends in this new setting are Patrice (Cassidy “Peep” Spencer), his attractive but bookish next door neighbor, and Archie (Spencer Puentes), who uses crutches as he has muscular dystrophy. Neither is popular with the school’s in-crowd.

The hip kids like Brett (Josh Thiele), the arrogant bullying football star, and Kendra (Kristen Oliver), the most popular girl in school, refuse to accept Evan’s invitation as long as he plans to invite Patrice and Archie.

Teenage crushes are ongoing, as you might expect in a high school setting. Lucy (Isabella Martinez) is Kendra’s best friend but also has the hots for Brett. Ms. Martinez, displaying the best singing voice in the cast, adds to an already impressive resume that includes performances at Stanton as one of the Leading Players in “Pippin” and as Smitty in “How to Succeed in Business.” She is a senior and hopefully we will be seeing her in future productions in community or college theatres.

Four school boys, Eddie (Whit Hemphill), Malcolm (James Demps), Simon (John Paul Acedo), and Richie (Christian Mortimer), sang and danced the rousing number “Bad Bad News.” Choreography was by Kevin Covert, who is well-known to local theatre audiences from his recent performances at The Alhambra Theatre.

Rounding out the featured members of the cast were three cheerleaders, Cassie (Bella Clements), Charlotte (Clara White) and Molly (Mary Belichis). The Kids, who danced and sang as an ensemble in various numbers, included Carrie Holton, Jonathan Perera, Natali Shafer, Mia White, Jill Responte, Gibson Grimm, Jillian Christiansen, Rajiv Perea,and Dominique Herreros.

Talented Director Shirley Sacks had the entire show done basically on an open stage, with chairs brought on for classroom and movie theatre scenes. Two video screens on both sides outside the stage flashed photos of various locations related to the on-stage action; which included, among others, New York skyscrapers, a modest Indiana home, and the school’s gym, library, and playground.

The musical direction was by Ellen Milligan (also on piano), with Tony Steve (drums), and Jacob Schuman (guitar).

The Production Staff included Stage Manager Yodit Geretsadik assisted by Hannah Menillo; Lights & Sound – Shannon Phelan; Costumes, Hair, Makeup – Collen Weller; Props – Jessika Sessoms; and Running Crew – Cassidy Bowen.

The show included twenty songs, and the first few were the best, or were at least songs that invited toe-tapping. Other interesting numbers with interesting titles included “The Lamest Place in the World,” “All Hail the Brain,” “Terminal Illness,” and “Being a Geek.” The show was funnier than we thought it would be, with lots of teen-oriented jokes, and of course some Jewish humor. One song featured hilarious dancing Rabbis. The audience’s favorite scene had the entire cast at a horror movie, with two of the young males plotting to exchange a kiss with the lovely Kendra.

We have seen a number of movies and television shows about teenagers which often delve into drugs, smoking, drinking, and other weighty issues. Not so with “13,” where the main issues were finding and making true friends. Thanks once again to Stanton Thespian Troupe 3929 for a fun evening of theatre.

Next up at Stanton is ‘It’s All Greek to Me,” which is scheduled for November 19 – 21, 2015, and will be directed by Jeff Groves.


About Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom

The Dual Critics of EU Jacksonville have been reviewing plays together for the past nine years. Dick Kerekes has been a critic since 1980, starting with The First Coast Entertainer and continuing as the paper morphed into EU Jacksonville. Leisla Sansom wrote reviews from time to time in the early 80s, but was otherwise occupied in the business world. As a writing team, they have attended almost thirty Humana Festivals of New America Plays at Actors Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, and many of the annual conferences sponsored by the American Theatre Critics Association, which are held in cities throughout the country. They have reviewed plays in Cincinnati, Chicago, Miami, Sarasota, Minneapolis, Orlando, New York, Philadelphia, Sarasota, San Francisco, Shepherdstown, and The Eugene O’Neill Center in Waterford, Massachusetts. They currently review about one hundred plays annually in the North Florida area theaters, which include community, college, university, and professional productions.