13, the 2008 Broadway musical may be one of the most underrated musicals from the last ten years (not five, sorry.) With one of Jason Robert Brown's most energetic and funniest scores accompanied by Dan Elish and Robert Horns laugh a minute book, 13 is a treat for all. Selling itself as a musical about growing up, there was certainly nothing childish about the performance that BITA, one of the most exciting upcoming youth theatre groups in Birmingham, gave this week at The Palace Theatre, Redditch.
The very noticeable aspect of BITA, which was clearly demonstrated in this performance was the strong bond held within the cast, working as one large ensemble for the production, the faith that the cast held in each other allowed for a fast-paced, slick and daring production. The cast performed Brown's challenging score to perfection, under Chris Passey's musical direction the vocals flew off the stage. Attiye Partridge's energetic choreography was made to look like a walk in the park by the cast and was delivered flawlessly. The direction from the two creative directors, along with Assistant Director Ben MacSkimming had completely the right energy and drive for the musical comedy. The production zipped along without stopping to breathe. Not one line, joke or beat was missed and they were delivered faultlessly.
Billy Vale had the audience in the palm of his hand as the energetic Evan Goldman, his narration on turning 13 was not only engaging, but very funny! The ‘nerdy’ Patrice had wonderful vocal delivery from Leah Evans, who captivated the audience during her first solo The Lamest Place in The World. Completing the trio of the three lead roles was the brilliantly funny James Luckins as Archie, who's self deprecating humour was refreshing and extremely engaging for the audience.
Sharnna Benbow gave a stunning performance as the twisted Lucy, her characterisation and soaring vocals matched up perfectly, and the audience loved the evil nature of her character. Jack Christou played the deluded Brett perfectly, in search of ‘the tongue’, he captivated the audience with a witty and powerful delivery. He was joined by Matthew Perry and Liam Wragg who gave some of the funniest moments of the night as Brett's dimwitted sidekicks Malcolm and Eddie, respectively.
It would be criminal to not mention the three vocalists that led the rousing finale Brand New You. Martha Graham, Mollie Hallahan and Georgia Rabone were impeccably belting the fantastic number, the audience couldn't help but clap along after making such a vivid and wonderful connection with the company during the 2 hours on-stage.
From a creative standpoint, Andrew Exeter’s flawless lighting design was a treat for the eyes, especially during the Act Two opening number, where the stage is transformed into a cinema wonderfully, you couldn't help but smile due to the wonderful creativity behind it.
BITA has set the bar high with 13, for an opening production, it was incredible to see the commitment that had gone into making the production such a success, there was not one weak link in the cast or crew... and I am very excited to see what they can do next.
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