11/19/23 By Haley Clough
Emerson College Musical Theater Society sold out tickets to their production of “13: The Musical” in less than a minute. The cast performed two shows this weekend and held an invite-only dress rehearsal Thursday evening in Paramount Studio 7.
“13: The Musical” tells the story of Evan Goldman, a young boy who moves with his mother to Indiana from New York City after his parents’ divorce. Evan is desperate for popularity and to have enough friends to invite to his bar mitzvah, but in his very relatable, naive attempts to make everyone like him, things go awry.
Despite the invited dress rehearsal being put on in a practice studio due to the unavailability of the theater, it was not a hindrance to the unbelievable talents. “I think it’s really cool when you’re out of place, and you’re able to see how people can adapt,” said audience member Connor Rossi. “And everyone is so spot on, the energy is great, their caricatures of everything are phenomenal, I don’t even think they need [an actual theater].”
If anything, holding the dress rehearsal in an open room with no wing space or curtains was a testament to the professionalism of the cast. The entire 15-person ensemble was essentially onstage the whole time, so they were seldom able to rest in the hot, crowded room. In spite of that fact, the energy was ceaseless. The commitment of the cast to their roles as 13-year-olds was not only derived from the goofy nostalgia of once being 13 themselves, but also because, at its core, “13” is a meaningful story.
Perhaps the sentimental value of the show is no more evident than in the fact that director Lauren Wiedenmann and co-director Luke Audie’s friendship blossomed while performing in their very own production of “13” as freshmen in high school. Wiedenmann said “13” is an outlier, as it is not often “we see super fun shows at Emerson.” She also said this show was “her baby,” and being able to see the cast carry out her and Audie’s vision was something she “could not be more thankful for.”
Wiedenmann and Audie appear to have picked the perfect lineup of individuals for this production of the show. Every cast member was sharp, balancing the responsibility of portraying a 13-year-old while also performing at a collegiate level. It was a triple threat cast of seasoned dancers, singers, and actors.
The cast agreed it was important to contextualize some of the sensitive themes of the show. “You get to read all of the trigger warnings when you walk in [to see the show], but you don’t get that when you’re thirteen … There’s almost a truthfulness to what is said,” said Tucker Gold, who played Evan. “At least for me, when we talked about the antisemitism in the show, it was pretty tame compared to what you can actually hear, so we should keep that as a realistic nod.”
The cast enlisted the help of fellow student Sophie McNamara as their accessibility coordinator when discussing topics of religion, sexuality, and disability awareness, spending the first few rehearsals going over accessibility and sensitivity training. The cast also took the time to truly understand the characters they were portraying. “Honestly, the first two-and-a-half weeks of the rehearsal process, we were getting into the bodies of our 13-year-old selves. We sat in circles and shared memories,” said Josie Dring, who played the show’s sweetheart, Kendra.
Frankie Mendez, who performed the role of Brett, said that to him, the show is about “what it means to be a friend,” and even at the collegiate level, it was, at its core, a moving story about coming-of-age relationships and the people who shape us.