Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, 2022 Netflix movie ’13: The Musical’ might have a mediocre plot, but it’s packed with a charming cast of kids who sing, dance like pros and keep you captivated until the credits roll in.
Directed by Tamra Davis, the musical stars Eli Golden as lead hero Evan, a 12-year-old whose plans to throw a grand Bar Mitzvah party in Manhattan is disrupted because his parents are getting divorced and he has to move to Indiana, a small town whose entire Jewish population resides in his home. Undeterred, Evan befriends geeky neighbor Patrice (Gabriella Uhl) to help throw the best party in town, but as school starts, their friendship is tested when Evan warms up to cool kids Brett (JD McCrary) and Kendra (Lindsey Blackwell).
This film shines when it comes to its core elements – music and lyrics , both composed by Jason Robert Brown. As unjust as it is to compare titles, ’13: The Musical’ definitely had more zing than some of the last few Disney musicals we saw in the same genre, i.e. ‘Sneakerella’ and ‘Better Nate Than Never’. All the actors actually look like they are in their early teens, even though their problems are blindingly similar to many a teen drama and romances. The only thing that sets apart this production is the wildly talented bunch of young actors who take center-stage in this bright, summery story about first kisses and friendships.
Eli Golden is amusing as the self-centered social butterfly Evan, Lindsey Blackwell is exceedingly adorable as straight A student Kendra who has a giant crush on the tall Brett. In a hilarious sub-plot, the entire class plots where and how Kendra and Brett should have their first kiss, a wish they vocalize in a super-cute upbeat track titled ‘I’ve Been Waiting’. Jonathan Lengel plays the cheery Archie who is bound to a wheelchair but dreams big and crushes on Kendra. Frankie McNellis plays the feisty and slightly villain-ish Lucy, who grabs the chance to dazzle in a solo track titled ‘Opportunity’. There is very little bullying in the plot; all the kids might not be friends, but they aren’t evil to each other either.
The climax is pretty straight-forward and obviously ends in a celebratory song-dance party. Overall, ’13: The Musical Review’ almost feels like ‘Grease’, but for kids.
It’s a 7/10 from me. Watch it for the talented cast, especially if you like breezy musicals.
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