13 – music & lyrics by Jason Robert Brown. Book by Don Elish & Robert Horn. Cadogan Hall, London. British Musical Academy annual show case. 4****. William Russell.

Jason Robert Brown’s splendid musical send up of the High School movie, the one in which the male geeks clash with the jocks and the prom queens dish the dirt on the female geek was given a stunning production at the Ambassadors theatre as the British Theatre Academy’s end of term musical in 2017. It is the ideal show for students to perform as there are several choice roles and it has a well crafted book and score to cover any slips along the way. This time the Academy has staged it in Cadogan Hall, a much less suitable venue for all sorts of reasons, and presumably, given that the pandemic has prevented performances, put everyone attending classes on stage which means that what is actually a tight little musical has the sort of ensemble not seen since the 1930s. Most of them sit in three rows on either side of the stage joining in from time to time, but they also, with the best will in the world, look like they are waiting to rush on and take over should any of the principals drop dead. This is very disconcerting. The performance also suffers – everyone is miked – from a distinctly dodgy sound system. Musicals these days depend on the sound designer and for far too much of the time the words were inaudible – and the lyrics are worth hearing – while the band had an unnecessary boom to it.
But the players are likeable, energetic, clearly love what they are doing and have been drilled to pretty well perfection. Whether there were any stars of tomorrow up there is anybody’s guess. But the plot about the New Yorker Evan Goldman, whose mother has moved them to Indiana after her divorce, must somehow get the school set, including prom queen Kendra, to attend his bar mitzvah still works a treat. Edward Flynn-Haddon makes Evan a sweet lad rather than a sharp little plotter, but sings well, and Ivy Pratt as Patrice, the female geek who fancies him rotten, does a neat Sue Pollard turn. The best moment came at the end when everyone got up and danced and danced and danced.

Evan: Edward Flynn-Haddon.
Patrice: Ivy Pratt.
Brett: Samuel Menhinick.
Malcolm: Timi Akinyosade.
Eddie: Joe Millington.
Kendra: Rebecca Nardin.
Archie:Ethan Quinn.
Lucy: Zoe Forward.
Cassie: Poppy Austin.
Charlotte: Mya=Tian Gordon.
Richie: Logan Robinson.
Molly: Ananya Kallasam.
Simon: Henry Littell.

Director: Dean Johnson.
Musical Director: Chris Ma.
Choreographer: Corin Miller.
Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson.
Lighting: Andrew Exeter.
Production photograph; Eliza Wilmot

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