1. 13/Becoming A Man
2. The Lamest Place In The World
3. Hey Kendra
4. Get Me What I Need
5. What It Means To Be A Friend
6. All Hail The Brain/Terminal Illness
7. Getting Ready
8. Any Minute
9. Here I Come
11. Bad Bad News
12. Tell Her
13. It Can’t Be True
14. If That’s What It Is
15. A Little More Homework
16. Brand New You
17. 13 (Single Version)
18. Brand New You (Single Version)
The arrival of a new score from this talented youngish composer Jason Robert Brown (he’s now 38, and he’s been hailed in the past as the new Sondheim) is enough to make a gaggle of Broadway fangirls (and boys) across the country scream with glee.
Having opened on Broadway in early October, 13, like just about every score he’s written, it possesses a healthy dose of energy. It may not be revolutionary material, but at least it’s got plenty of spunk.
Brown, who made a name for himself with trendy cabaret-cum-revue musicals like Songs For a New World (little-to-no plot) and The Last Five Years (a little bit more plot) as well as the ambitious Broadway flop Parade, which won him the Tony for Best Score, knows how to write a catchy song. Songs like Stars And The Moon and I’m Still Hurting have become cabaret favorites, and the cast albums of his shows are some of the most enduring, widespread sellers in a niche market that seems sometimes to cater merely to obsessives and groupies.
Maybe all this attention gien to Brown as a songwriter can be attributed to his way of capturing adult themes in 3- to 6-minute ditties with impressive depth and specificity. The announcement of 13 for its initial run at the Mark Taper Forum in California, therefore, came as a shock. Brown devotees could be heard gasping around the world collectively – Jason Robert Brown is writing a musical about thirteen-year-olds? WHAT?!
Fortunately, though, despite the fact that the show fashions itself as a sort of Middle School Musical, jumping on the teenybopper bandwagon that seems to have rolled into town lately, the songs in 13, a musically impressive show considering its target audience, still have that signature Jason Robert Brown flair.
The title track and Brand New You are the show’s two punchy “mainstream” songs, the ones that could crossover for radio play on tween stations without much trouble. But the signature Brown ballads are still here in abundance. Allie Trimm, who’s giving a standout performance, sings two of the show’s most affecting songs, What It Means To Be A Friend and The Lamest Place In The World. If That’s What It Is and the finale, A Little More Homework, drive the show’s message of open-mindedness and friendship home amiably, the latter a Seasons of Love-style full-cast showcase.
Also, because of cuts to the show during its preview period, the recording also gives listeners an opportunity to hear parts of the score that aren’t performed in the version of the show currently on display at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, surely a plus for completists.
To be honest, there are a number of more cringeworthy songs here (All Hail The Brain, Terminal Illness, Any Minute), and some of the cast border on squeakiness. Listening to thirteen-year-olds on repeat for too long requires mild endurance training. But it’s still all a relatively painless, fun experience. Tweens and early teens will probably go ga-ga. I did a little bit, though I’m embarrassed to admit it.