Thirteen is an awkward age and the production of the Broadway musical 13 is no exception at the Woolfe Street Playhouse. Performed by local teenagers, this show is uncomfortable, embarrassing, and — totally perfect. It reeks of authenticity.
The opening scene features a confident young man (a cross between Justin Beiber and Adam Goldberg) whose voice unintentionally cracks during the song, "I'm becoming a man." It's cringe-worthy — not for their effort but for all the realistic, painful memories the show brings back. From the mean girl rumors to the stupid sex-obsessed boys, it's petty, on point and often hilarious.
The kids in this show are the people they're portraying. It's sweet, desperate, and hopeful all at once. You can see the potential and the pain in each of the actors — whether they're acting or not isn't always evident. While the dancing wasn't worthy of the Rockettes and the pitch wasn't perfect, the bravery required to stand on a stage didn't go unnoticed and the moments of humor are pure. Each performance receives its well-deserved applause.
This weekend is the inaugural performance of Village Kids and Co., an offshoot program of the Village Repertory Theater. Director, musical director, and choreographer Mary Fishburne led a team of 22 kids aged 13-18 over the course of an audition and 15 rehearsals to this weekend's show. "I've never worked so hard on any one project in my life. It was just me and 22 kids. This was a real professional Broadway show."
Keely Enright, producing artistic director is thrilled with the addition, "There are so many programs for young kids and there are plenty of adult options, but for in between, there is nothing. We wanted to create a classroom experience for older kids and teens with higher expectations and greater responsibilities."
For main character Kendra, played by 13-year-old Zoe Hricik, it's an outlet for her creativity, says her mom, board member Pam Hricik. "She loves it. She's always been creative. It's the first place that puts kids in the kid's program. I'd love to see more of it." Obvious crowd favorite Hunter Horn, who superbly plays Archie, sees this as another feather in his cap as he sets his sights on Broadway.
Whatever their motivation, the end result is one that must be repeated, and often, for the benefit of anyone who is or whoever was a teenager. The Village Kids and Co is looking to try this attempt at age-appropriate material again this fall.