Jason Robert Brown’s Parade has been produced at the Donmar and Southwark Playhouse, and The Last Five Years at the Menier Chocolate Factory and in a series of Sunday night performances at the Haymarket. But it’s a remarkable fact that the London premiere of 13, his 2008 Broadway musical that features a cast of 13 13-year-olds, marks his longest West End run since a week-long run of The Last Five Years at the Duchess, though in fact it’s only running for four nights and six performances.
Hannah Thompson and Jacques Miche in 13 at the Apollo theatre, London Photo: Robert Youngson
Where’s the popular hit that Brown deserves? 13 isn’t it, either - but if it’s not a 10/10, it’s an entirely adorable musical about the trials of becoming a teenager, and is performed vivaciously by its all-teenage cast from the National Youth Music Theatre. Although this company may lack the sheen of their original Broadway stage-school professionals, they’re rougher, tougher and more adorable for it.
As Evan finds his life uprooted from upper West Side Manhattan to rural Indiana after his parents split up, Guy Harvey delightfully charts his path trying to fit in at a new school, but finding that being one of the outsiders, with the oddly unpopular Patrice (Sienna Kelly, one of the most fully formed performers in the show) and disabled Archie (Tim Mahendran), has its own integrity.
So does this show, that lies somewhere between High School Musical (with a better score) and Spring Awakening (with less angst and dysfunction). Brown’s own charmer of a production is delightfully supported by Drew McOnie’s tremendously integrated choreography of fresh, spontaneous-seeming street moves, and Torquil Munro’s superb musical direction of a six-strong band.