By M. ENGLISH
For 21st Century Media
Poor Evan Goldman … all of 13 and beset with so many problems, he’s busier than the proverbial one-legged man at a backside-kicking contest.
He’d like to be friends with cool kid Brett, so he snags Brett a date with beautiful Kendra, even though Kendra’s two-timing pal Lucy tries to put the kibosh on the plan because she has Brett in her sights. Meanwhile, Evan’s neighbor Patrice likes him, but nobody much likes her except Archie who gets mad at Evan when he’s mean to Patrice but promises to lighten up if Evan gets him a date with Kendra whom he’s already set up with Brett who’s … well, you get the picture.
Suffice it to say, there’s teen angst to spare in Media Theatre’s production of “13: The Musical,” running from May 30 to June 8. Peer pressure? Misguided puppy love? Seesawing self-esteem? Rampant insecurity?
It’s all there.
New York native Evan’s woes were triggered by his parents’ divorce. His mom uprooted him from their familiar digs in the Big Apple to a new home in Podunk, Ind., and the world as he knew it disappeared into a Midwestern blur.
What’s a boy to do?
If Evan were Kevin Bacon’s iconic Ren McCormack of “Footloose” fame, he’d dust off his high-tops, pull on his jeans and mesmerize his provincial peers with a few stellar dance steps. But Evan is no Ren McCormack. The Goldmans are Jewish, and he’s about to make his Bar Mitzvah amid a social circle that couldn’t care less about his dance moves.
Does the Jason Robert Brown musical (book by Dan Elish) end happily? Does Evan gain new insights into the meaning of friendship? Does he stay true to himself? At 13, does he even recognize that self?
Maybe, but as Oscar Wilde put it, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
That said, lead Gianni Palmarini probably knows Evan as well as anyone. The Aston 13-year-old — a Media Theatre youth program veteran — is reprising the role he played in Wilmington Drama League’s production of “13: The Musical” in January. Media Theatre Artistic Director Jesse Cline and company attended one of the WDL performances to “support” Palmarini and were so impressed they invited the young cast to restage the show in Media.
“[‘13: The Musical’], as presented by Wilmington Drama League, was very much similar in style to the type of work we do with teens,” said Cline, who oversees Media Theatre’s children’s summer camp and founded its children’s theater series. “It’s all about who they are at this moment in time with no pretension and no filter. It’s a great fit for our stage at The Media Theatre.”
Palmarini, also a talented singer and former Delco Idol Junior, described Cline’s invitation to extend the WDL run “a dream come true.”
“I’ve been at the Media Theatre since I was 6 years old,” he said. “I’ve been in their summer camps, teen musicals and youth series. One of my biggest challenges was taking on the lead role in the teen version of ‘Hair’ at Media last summer, which was directed by Jesse Cline.”
An eighth-grader at Aston’s Northley Middle School, Palmarini believes the dilemmas posed in “13: The Musical” are authentic.
“The musical brilliantly narrates the life of a normal 13-year-old who is going through some of the same challenges real teens are going through,” he said. “It reminds us that you are going to fail, and you just have to pick yourself back up and take another go at it. Even when you think you are finished trying, there is always something more you can do.”
A message that cuts across age lines.
“The show holds an important message for everyone,” Palmarini said. “Teenagers and adults will relate to its themes. It gives audiences the message to be who you are, to not try to be the person next to you. It’s about taking responsibility within your own unique self and within your own abilities. You’re never going to please everyone, so you might as well be yourself.”
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