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Reflecting reality in “13: The Musical”: Sizing up the stage and Netflix versions

By Cheyenne Farnsley | Arts Angle Vantage Reporter

New Albany High School, Class of 2024


When Brooks Roseberry auditioned for the recent CenterStage production of “13: The Musical” at the Trager Family Jewish Community Center (JCC), he knew the role of Archie was for him. He was familiar with the musical’s characters since he auditioned virtually in 2020 to be cast in a role of the Netflix movie production. Brooks himself knew he wanted the role of Archie the moment he read the film script that is based on the hilarious show and the book.

The cast of “13: The Musical” at CenterStage at the Trager Family JCC. Photo by Robyn Kaufman. Courtesy Trager Family JCC.


“13: The Musical” — the movie and the CenterStage’s recent theatrical production — both follow the life of 13-year-old Evan Goldman when his life is turned upside down after his parent’s divorce, and he and his mother move from New York to a small town in Indiana, or as the lyrics say, “the lamest place in the world.” He tries to fit in with the popular crowd and seeks out friends to come to his bar mitzvah. Along the way, he loses and gains many friends, but in the end, he learns the value of true friendship.


The film and the theatrical versions of “13: The Musical,” have many similarities and differences. The movie released by Netflix in August of 2022, provides a family-friendly story of Evan Goldman, for those nights-in, popcorn-in-hand movie events.


Young students from area middle and high schools including the Youth Performing Arts School and Ballard High School worked together to bring this musical comedy to the stage during its run from Feb. 23 through March 5. On opening night, these young actors had the audience laughing regularly at lines such as “He could also get his tongue stuck down your throat, or try to kiss you so hard, he chips one of your teeth!”

Cast of the Netflix movie "13 The Musical." Photo by Alan Markfield. Netflix.


Lead actors Brooks (Archie) and Drew Ashley (Evan) both agreed that the movie does have its differences.


Drew, a YPAS freshman, played Evan Goldman, the 13-year-old adjusting to his new, friendless life in Appleton, Indiana, while trying to plan the best bar mitzvah ever. In his first lead role, and as a 14-year-old high school student, Drew closely connected with his character. He said he believes the show does a good job portraying the hardships of a similar situation he went through in middle school.


“Before the pandemic, I lost a lot of friends,” he said. “That stuck through until sixth and seventh grades, but finally going into eighth grade I regained some of those friends back in my class.”


An all-teenage cast made up the local production. On the other hand, the movie’s cast featured teenage leads and adults portraying many key roles. The CenterStage cast, going through many changes, did have some ups and downs during rehearsals leading up to their opening night.


“So my voice is changing. The show is out of my vocal range,” Drew said. “We made adjustments to the music so that I could sing and make it sound okay. It was definitely a difficult yet achievable thing.”

Drew Ashley (Evan) and Brooks Roseberry (Archie) in CenterStage at the Trager Family JCC’s production of “13: The Musical.” Photo by Robyn Kaufman. Courtesy Trager Family JCC.


Other cast members struggled with a similar situation as Drew. Brooks, cast in the role of Archie: a boy who struggles with a chronic illness and has a sinister side, said the challenges he faced in the show were like those faced as an actor.


“One of the hardest things about the opening night was that I lost my voice,” Brooks said. “Also, I had to learn to use my forearm crutches, which I got a week before the show. We had been doing all of the rehearsals with me just standing there.”


Brooks even related to Archie in some ways.


“I feel like Archie is very similar to me, but also not at all,” Brooks said. “I have dealt with lots of bullying so a lot of that I feel like I could relate, too.”


He didn’t relate so much to Archie where the character contributed to the show’s many ribald moments, such as when he tried to kiss Kendra without her permission. These brought very funny, yet twisted side stories. Much of this drama relating to people and awkward crushes at this age is shown through Archie, which the movie does not show.

The cast of “13: The Musical” at CenterStage at the Trager Family JCC. The images deipct a scene at a movie theater when two boys attempt to kiss one of the popular girls. Photo by Robyn Kaufman. Courtesy Trager Family JCC.


The CenterStage production had one other thing that many movies and other shows may not have: the friendships behind the scenes among young people in the same community.


“Being in the show at CenterStage, around lots of people my age who have similar interests as me was fun,” Brooks said. “I have always known these people, but I haven't really gotten to be friends with them.”


As a teenager working with many of his young friends, he preferred portraying a somewhat genuine story onstage.


“I would definitely say the storyline of “13” does a good job portraying the age. It is relatable, even if you do not directly relate to the characters,” he said. “I feel like most people can connect with characters who act like some people in their life.”


The story of “13” may bring out many different emotions from all versions of the story. Despite the differences between the movie and the musical, the cast had its challenges and ups and downs, and each character's role was special to them.


“It was my first lead role where the story was about my character, which was really cool,” Drew said. “It's such an entertaining show, it's funny, it gives you a chance to laugh, it gives you a chance to cry. Just all of it — the whole 9 yards.”


Cheyenne Farnsley, a New Albany High School junior, participates in Features, a section of the school’s yearbook, The Vista. The section covers news-based information. Whenever she isn’t taking names or meeting deadlines, you will find her reading a book, or with her cat, Heathy. Cheyenne is planning on pursuing her passion for journalism after high school, in hopes to continue doing what she loves.

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