‘13’ at the Pasadena Playhouse

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By Thomas Brandon

What do you do when you’re a Jewish pre-teen who gets transplanted from your Manhattan home to a middle-American small town before your Bar Mitzvah can take place? If you’re Evan from Theater 360’s production of 13 at the Pasadena Playhouse, you’re going to have to get all the cool kids in your new school to come to a party with a name they can’t even pronounce. So begins the travails of a young fish-out-of-water in this musical effort from composer Jason Robert Brown (Last Five Years).

The production is a high-energy exploration of modern adolescent culture and doesn’t feature any adult roles, which fits Theater 360’s needs well. As a children’s theatre company and school, Theater 360 offers professional theatre education to children of all ages. And they certainly get their chance to shine on stage here.

Director and choreographer Devon Yates keeps the almost twenty young kids moving well, blocking the large group numbers to fill the stage without feeling contrived. Some of the two and three-person scenes, however, lack the same crispness, and it feels as if several of the pivotal individual moments get lost in the shuffle.

There is no lack of ambition or life on stage, though. The performers stay committed throughout and seem to be having fun, making it easy for the audience to join in. The script itself has some issues, continually treading in clichéd territory, and the music doesn’t feel especially inspired. The young audience at Saturday night’s performance didn’t seem to mind in the least.

13 (music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn) runs through December 19 in The Carrie Hamilton Theatre at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino in Pasadena. Performances are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 1:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available by calling Theatre 360 at (626) 577-5922.

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