REVIEW: 13 the musical, Netflix ✭✭✭✭

Last Updated on 21st August 2022

Douglas Mayo reviews the film adaptation 13 the musical of 13 the musical now showing on Netflix.

13 muiscal netflix
Photo: Netflix

13 the musical
4 Stars

There have been an increasing number of film musicals released directly by streaming services such as Netflix and generally, you can see that filmmakers (usually with extensive help from theatre creatives) are finding their way back to making great movie musicals, so when it was announced that 13 the musical was coming to Netflix I was quietly hopeful.

13 is an original musical with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. It was the only Broadway musical ever with a cast and band made up of teenagers. In 2014, the National Youth Music Theatre in the UK staged a production at the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End directed by Jason Robert Brown. I saw that production and was floored by the brilliance of its cast, the simplicity of its staging and the enormous heart and comedy that flowed off that stage.

13 the musical movie
Photo: Netflix

13 is the story of Evan Goldman, a 13-year-old native New Yorker who thanks to a divorce is forced to move to Appleton, Indiana. With his Bar Mitzvah in jeopardy and to a move to nowhere about to happen, it’s the end of the world for Evan. Meeting new friends in Appleton, Evan becomes obsessed with finding new cool friends to attend said Bar Mitzvah. Teen drama ensues as it always does between geeks and cool kids, but it all comes out ok in the end.

In adapting for film, the story’s adults are now made flesh and they don’t detract too much from the musical’s main focus the teen cast. Deborah Messing (Evan’s mum Jessica), Rhea Perlman (Grandma Ruth), Peter Hermann (Evan’s father Joel) and Josh Peck (the Rabbi) deliver just the right amount of parental guidance and concern, although the inclusion of a sub plot about Jessica’s career is more a hindrance than a help.

The stars of 13 remain its junior cast. Each of its featured teens is a well-formed character and when combined with Robert Brown’s brilliant score it is a joy to watch. Eli Golden (Evan), Gabriella Uhl (Patrice), JD McCrary (Brett), Frankie McNellis (Lucy), and Lindsey Blackwell (Kendra) are perfectly cast.

13 the musical netflix
Photo: Netflix

Some of the greatest moments in 13 the musical come from its support cast. Lucy and the Cheerleaders singing Opportunity and the football jocks singing Bad Bad News are two cases in point.

My big problem with the film is the treatment of Archie, a disabled teen played to perfection by Jonathan Lengel. Self-aware and comic, the omission of Archie’s musical numbers Get Me What I Need and Terminal Illness are a great loss.

There are some new tunes each containing one of JRB’s specially crafted earwigs that will have you humming the tunes immediately, but the screenplay and the loss of Archie’s soul seemed to leave a huge hole in the film’s first half and with a running time of 90 mins I was left hoping that there might be a full-length director’s cut heading our way at sometime in the future.

I’ve watched the film four times now and don’t get me wrong I love it, but I have already reverted to my NYMT Original London Cast Album for my Archie fix.



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