We chat to producers David Venn and Jess Benney of Stage Masters about the return season of 13 – A New Musical.
Theatre People: Tell us about the show in your own words:
Stage Masters (David Venn and Jess Benney): 13 is a fantastic musical written for young people about young people. As producers passionate about providing opportunities for young performers, it is refreshing and uplifting to find a show that deals with subject matter relevant to and, in a way, almost personal to the cast. The characters underpin typical high school stereotypes and the dominant theme of wanting to find a way to fit in is one that the performers can align with and relate to, (although many of them are cast against their own personalities!) The show follows the journey of Evan, an almost 13-year-old, who has his life thrown into disarray by his parents' divorce and a move from New York to Appleton, Indiana. We watch as Evan learns what is important to him, and who his true friends are while trying to prepare for his Bar Mitzvah. It is a simple, innocent and beautiful story which audiences of all ages can relate to – either as they are experiencing now, or as they experienced in the past.
TP: 13 is written by Jason Robert Brown (Songs for a New World, Parade, and The Last 5 Years) – is it like his other shows?
SM: Jason Robert Brown is one of the most esteemed composers of his generation, and the complexity and intelligence of his writing is evident in 13 – the opening number is written in 13/8, a wonderful musical play on the title of the show! He has also written very well for the age of the intended cast in terms of harmony and musical through-line in each song, while still providing the audience with the musical and emotional connection between character and music which is a signature of his work, especially Parade.
TP: This is the show's return season – does it feature the same cast ore there some new faces?
SM: We produced the show in July as part of a two-week workshop and performance season, and the talent, enthusiasm and commitment of the cast was absolutely outstanding. At the end of those crazy three weeks, we realised we had created something very unique and special with an almost unbelievably talented group of performers. We wanted to give them another experience to perform their show in a more traditional theatre space and to allow more people to come and see these outstanding young performers. The return season features 28 of the original cast members, with some fantastic new faces added to the mix!
TP: 13 is a challenging show that's written for 13-year-old performers and 13-year-old musicians – why did Stage Masters choose to produce 13 originally?
SM: Between us, David and I have a long history of empowering children through performing arts via. avenues such school musicals, training institutes, and productions. We are strong believers that the performing arts can provide children and teenagers with skills in communication, teamwork, and confidence that are important in life and can be transferred to a number of professions, and that this should be explored to its fullest potential. We were drawn to 13 as it is a show that is written for teenagers about issues relevant to teenagers. The passion, sensitivity, and commitment from our cast in relation to issues including bullying, gossip and relationships has been inspiring and eye opening. They have given their own experience and trusted us with this to create this production, and this is honesty is what makes 13 unique.
TP: What is the age of your cast?
SM: The cast range in age from 11-17 years. At such young ages many of our cast members already have professional experience in the industry. We've got young performers who have starred professionally on stage and screen, finalists from reality TV talent competitions, and even young musicians who are currently in LA signing record deals. A few of our cast include Brianna Bishop – Australia's Got Talent finalist, Mark Balas who played Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, and Frank Dixon who played alongside Sir Ian McKellan in Waiting For Godot. These cast members are fantastic role models for the rest of group and display an incredible level of professionalism in the rehearsal space. All our cast members had their lines down before the end of our first week of rehearsals which just shows their level of dedication. It is so exciting to watch these young performers grow as we add new levels to their characters. Just based on their amazing talent at such young ages we can only imagine the sensations they will become in the future.
Our cast is made up of 42 young performers from around Victoria. Some of our cast members travel up to two hours on public transport to get to rehearsals each week. We ran a state-wide talent search with over 350 performers auditioning between July and October, and met an amazing display of talented singers, dancers and actors from around the state. The professional standard and quality of auditions was outstanding – such a credit to the performing training available for young people in Victoria. Our casting decisions were made really difficult.
13 is a provoking, engaging story told with contagious energy and humour. It is 100% pure entertainment for the whole family. The songs in this musical comedy are smart and upbeat and are sure to speak to current, former, and soon to be teens. There is something in 13 for everyone! 13 is a grown-up story about growing up. It is about the lessons we learn throughout life and the discovery that who you want to be starts with discovering who you are. A perfect pre-Christmas activity for friends and family.
Tickets are from $29.00 – Selling fast
Check out a sneak peek of rehearsals at www.13themusical.com.au
Book now at www.ticketmaster.com.au or call 136 100
Limited seats available at the door.