The cast of 13: The Musical. Photo: CenterStage.

13: The Musical

Music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown
Book by Dan Ellish & Robert Horn
Directed by Erin Silliman

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Should I be ashamed to confess that I knew almost nothing about this show going into the theatre? It premiered on Broadway in 2007 and was adapted into a film in 2022 but I still was unfamiliar with the material. But isn’t the best way to enter a theatre?

I tend to be cynical but 13: the Musical was such a blast that it blows away any grumpy hesitation to embrace a show about 12-year old kids. The book relies heavily on cliches but Erin Silliman’s direction gives each of them a fresh spin, and the songs are filled with good humor that presents pre-adolescent angst and sexual exploration with wit and double entendre that stays well with a PG range of good taste.

The story centers on Evan (Drew Ashley) a young Jewish boy from NYC whose mother has moved him to Appleton, Indiana after divorcing his father. Stuck in a small town and the only Jewish kid in his school, Evan is determined to have a well-attended bat mitzvah. To accomplish this he sets about accomplishing favors for the most popular boy in school, Brett (Cooper Turk-Gagel), and the biggest nerd, Archie (Brooks Roseberry), who is picked on in spite of, or perhaps exactly because of needing crutches. In pure situation comedy fashion, his plans are over-complicated and always go awry.

Yet the music is agreeable and the lyrics are often a riot or tender enough to capture the nostalgic feel of first love. Yet it has to be played well to really fly, and Silliman has led her talented cast of young actors to the best effect.

Drew Ashley is perfect as Evan, ingratiating but never annoying, and he earns our forgiveness with great charm. Channing Rivera is also right on target as Evan’s first Appleton friend, Patrice, as she smoothly transitions from an intelligent geek to a desirable, sweet-hearted girlfriend. And both display amazing singing voices. Rounding out the trio of friends, Brooks Roseberry is scabrously funny as Archie.

Kennedy Julian is a hoot as the seemingly dim-witted Kendra, the prettiest girl in school, while Leilani Bracey practically steals the show as her devious best friend, Lucy, in part because she has a couple of showcase numbers but also because she performs them with a significant edge, sass, and energy. One other notable stand-out from the ensemble was Chase Phillips, who danced with the most style and humor.

The band was as good as anything I’ve heard lately, sealing the deal on the superior execution of the musical numbers, and Sandra Rivera’s choreography was witty and inventive.

So many stories about youth written by adults sentimentalize and simplify the experience and I won’t claim that 13: The Musical is not guilty of that, but it is so hugely entertaining and winning that it is difficult to deny its charms. I give a lot of credit to director Erin Silliman for managing the wealth of talent in her ensemble and letting it gallop to just the right degree. Whatever the show’s limitations, she has fashioned one of the most entertaining nights of theatre currently available.

Featuring Addie Angermeier, Drew Ashley, Leilani Bracey, Liam Curry, Molly Dauk, Emily Dewberry, Gillian Dickinson, Madie Edelen, Locke Hargis, Kennedy Julian, William Paxton, Chase Philips, Madeleine Richardson, Channing Rivera, Brooks Roseberry, Aidrick Smith, Levi Tasman, & Cooper Turk-Gagel 

Orchestra: John Austin Clark, Tommy Cook, Julie McKay, Dave Neill, Benji Simmons 

13: The Musical

February 23 – March 5, 2023

CenterStage at the Trager Family JCC
3600 Dutchmans Lane
Louisville, KY 40205

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for