It’s one thing to argue a few von Trapp children: some Matilda. A gavroche or two.
But the backstage dressing room of a Broadway theater packed with a dozen newly minted teenagers in a bakery, raging hormones, and more? And no adult figures, except for the crew, the music director, and yes, the three kid Wranglers?
This is the wonderful experiment of 13, the 2008 coming-of-age musical, about and performed by a group of children going through one of the most chaotic and vulnerable stages of their lives. rice field. The show, which follows his 13-year-old boy named Evan juggling his parents’ divorce, an upcoming bar mitzvah, and a seemingly life-shattering move from New York to the heart of Indiana, is this particular one. It wasn’t just a test to manage the company. All-Teen Cast and Band — but in finding out exactly what audiences’ appetites for a piece that sat squarely in midair between Disney and Spring Awakening are.
Adult reviewers were lukewarm, but to be fair, New York Times critic Ben Brantley’s fellow 14-year-old found it “pretty good” – and “13” was 3 on opening night. It was closed months later. many Broadway casualties during a recession.
But since then, the show, with music by Jason Robert Brown and books by Dan Elish and Robert Horn, has found new life at school, and now a new generation of tweens is taking the mantle on Netflix. The film adaptation began streaming on Friday.
Most of the original cast members are now in their late twenties.They graduated from adolescent showmance wedding planningSome are still acting, directing, and choreographing for television, Broadway, and more. Others have left the business altogether.
And one actress, Ariana Grande, became a bona fide pop supernova with her Broadway debut as gossip-prone, flip-phone-wielding Charlotte.
Ahead of the film’s release, members of its cast, band, creative team and production crew reflected on their memories of the show. A few years ago, when I was 11, I had a conversation with a reporter who happened to be sitting in the stands. Bernard B. Jacobs saw “13,” her first Broadway musical at her theater. Below is an edited excerpt from our discussion.
Scholastic book editors reached out to Jason Robert Brown to see if he’d be interested in brainstorming a new project. This is an original musical that will also lead to a new book series. The collaboration ultimately fell through, but not before Brown came up with the pitch. It’s a story about a young teenager who serves as the framework for ’13’.
JASON ROBERT BROWN (Lyrics/Composition) Dan Elish saw me doing an interview and said he wanted me to do a show with dancing teens. We were doing a “parade” and when the “parade” came out, people didn’t really react. It’s very heavy. I felt like I was spending an entire season competing with dancing teenagers.
Dan Elish (Book) He was joking. But I had just published this young adult novel, and I had a couple of eighth grade boys in New York. Maybe I was the guy who wrote The Great Dancing Teenager Musical.
brown Dan sent me a copy of his novel. I liked it, but I didn’t think it was a musical. But I said, ‘If you’re interested in doing something with me, I have an idea I had once for a show that’s only 13 years old. And Dan said, “Sure, that sounds like fun.”
The musical premiered in 2007 at the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles. When the show’s producers set their sights on Broadway, writer Robert Horn and director Jeremy Sams joined his creative team and began looking for a New York cast.
Jeremy Sams (directed by) We saw hundreds of kids everywhere in New York and Los Angeles. The more I looked, the clearer it was who should be on the show.When Ariana Grande showed up and Liz Gillies and Ally Trim and Graham showed up [Phillips], it is very clear. I will never forget Ariana singing to me and Jason.
brown At the end of the opening number, there are 4 scat solos.and i remember the day [in rehearsal] Everyone was improvising around the piano, and some of them obviously didn’t know how to improvise a solo. Among them was Ariana Grande.
Ariana Grande (Charlotte) Working with Jason is the ultimate masterclass not only in musicianship, but also in his storytelling, creativity and problem solving. I remember him leaving the room whenever he felt that something was missing and coming back half an hour later with a brand new great song.
Aaron Simon Gross (Archie) I was working at the same time and virtually always starstruck.
Elizabeth Gillies (Lucy) Ariana and I joke a lot. Because she was very sociable and she made friends with everyone. When I first started auditioning, I was so hardcore that I hid in a corner. I was so determined to take the role that I didn’t want to talk to anyone until I started reading the book.
Bryn Williams (Cathy) All of our pressure was self-defeating. We wanted to prove we were capable and we wanted to do well. But there was no outside pressure at all. They did a great job of treating us like professionals while recognizing that we were teenagers.
brown Many of them had more Broadway shows than I did. And my feeling is, look, I’ve written hard music, but I know it’s possible. I didn’t mean to simplify it for them unless they can’t. But let’s find out first. And they all rose to it.
Robert Horn (Book) It was so interesting to see the split between the incredible work ethic they had when they were younger and the talent and dedication they brought. And you understand that they are children.
Case in point: Suburban tryouts in the summer of 2008 at Goodspeed Musicals in Chester, Connecticut.
brown In the middle of July or August, or whatever it was, we released twenty children in this small town in Connecticut, all living in the same house. they were 13 years old. They were a bunch of punks.
Gillies The closest we got to entertainment was a pizzeria, a cemetery, and a forest.
Eamon Foley (Ritchie) It was a summer camp with the most talented kids in the world. Like hyper-creative kids who spent half the day building this really sick show based on their talents and spending the other half running around in the woods and smoking weed out of a Gatorade bottle.
Horn Someone got caught in a joint. I will not mention the name.
During Goodspeed’s run, and even when it opened on Broadway in September 2008, the show was constantly changing.
Horn We were writing it with those kids. They were giving us credibility. I can bring humor and storytelling, but I was never a 14 year old girl.
Delaney Moro (Kendra) They were very good at giving us agency to share our ideas, they picked up what we said and did and tried to write it down.
Graham Phillips (Evan) New jokes were being put in and out.Depending on the reaction of the audience, one of the five fingers will be raised [onstage, directed at Horn in the audience]If it’s really bad, put up a crooked index finger.Equivalent to a trombone Exciting, exciting.
brown We have prepared a big finale for Act 1 at Goodspeed. My idea was something like James Brown’s Soul in his review. It lasted one performance. On Broadway, however, a whole Dance Dance Revolution number replaced it.
Horn At one point the girls showed up in sparkly dresses from these background singers, and then out came all these Dance Dance Revolution machines.
Allie Trim (Patrice) We spent hours developing the technique so that Dance Dance Revolution’s arrows light up in time with the choreography.
Actors weren’t the only ones on stage.
brown There was also a band that was completely kid-friendly. I mean, it was a whole other level of crazy. Of course, that’s the kind of crazy, kid musician I’ve enjoyed the most.
tom kitt (music director) They were just a pleasure. They were anything but a game. The band was on stage and of course I — an adult — was hidden in the scenery.
CHARLIE ROSEN (swing bass, guitar, percussion) We were children — we had our flaws. We weren’t the best site readers. But Jason never took his writing lightly. Much sooner than even college kids really understand things that music school doesn’t teach you, like how to show up on time, rehearse etiquette, or follow a music director, we’re stepping up and becoming a professional. I had to become a musician.
Grande It’s safe to say that all of us, even just our voices, rapidly developed the discipline and stamina needed for the rest of our careers doing eight shows a week as young teenagers.
For the cast, behind the scenes was often more dramatic than the show itself.
Phillips She shared a locker room with Eric Nelsen. [playing Brett]was dating Liz, who shared a dressing room with Ariana, who was dating at the time.
brown Robert really got into gossip.
Horn Someone goes out with someone else, and then a few days later goes out with someone else.
Phillips I remember sneaking around a lot. Perhaps more than anyone else, I was familiar with every nook and cranny of the Jacobs Theater. One of the Wranglers was really good at finding me.
trim Everyone was figuring out their sexuality and finding themselves. And I think everyone was going through such a massive awakening of who we are as people.
But in a way, it wasn’t finished yet when ’13’ closed in January 2009. Brown and Horn said he spent six months tearing the show apart and fixing the version that would be licensed for community theater production at the school.
brown I’ve loved you for a long time.”Brand New You,” at the end of the show. And I remember watching it one night, probably somewhere at the end of the run, and thinking that’s how the whole show should have been, as far as this audience is concerned. A lot of what I started saying is exactly what her teens were supposed to be dancing. It should have been like this kind of kinetic rock concert. Instead, in the process of developing it, it became very personal and very intimate.
Gillies audience [at Goodspeed] Very receptive and our theater was very quaint. By the time it got to Broadway, it was a whole different animal — a very large stage for a very intimate little show.
brown We invited a lot of children to the dress rehearsal, and it was a very young and noisy audience. I remember the screams Shaw received that night. I called her wife and said, “I think it’s a hit.” And I was so wrong. But I wish I could have frozen the show that night.