Juvenis’ 13 is Endearing, Heartfelt, and Talented
I remember being 13. I remember thinking every mistake was the end of the world, or that my happiness was dependent on what people thought of me at face-value. I now wince at my behaviour then, but truth be told, I still fall into that trap.
Blue Canoe Theatrical Productions presents their annual Juvenis Festival where 13 (Jason Robert Brown, Dan Eilish, Robert Horn) ran from April 28th to April 30th in the Rotunda Theatre. The story follows Evan Goldman as he moves to small-town Indiana after his parents’ divorce while facing the complicated dynamics of reputation, relationships, and rumours that comes with the middle school experience and his impending bar mitzvah.
Before the show, director Brennan Michener shared with me the joy he felt returning to the theatre, and with such an enthusiastic team. Michener truly wanted this to be an opportunity for people to rediscover their confidence and talent within themselves, but to also create the community that everyone lost for two years.
His idea to integrate digital technology throughout the first act served as a reference to the transition from digital theatre back to live performance. The opening number began with a video performance of a recording of the cast that was projected onto a screen, which shifted onstage and into the in-person performance. The implementation of digital technology also reflected how today’s communication tool can influence the representation and perception of identity, especially seen in the number It Can’t Be True where the company demonstrates the spread of a rumour through the use of phone calls. To me, it also gave the actors a chance to explore both in-person and digital techniques, adding to the learning experience of this production.
The ensemble (Sasha Cameron-Bowes, Ember Robinson, Simone Scala-Conley, and Cai Holmes) served as a fun contemporary Greek chorus, playing a multitude of characters that mimicked the bystanders that overlook the drama and while adding rich harmonies to the music of the show. The supporting cast (Broghan Baker, Hayden Billings, Travis Ball, Claire Cooper, and Jade Peter) displayed a solid understanding of humour in the story, which was elevated by strong comedic timing and distinct characterization. All of this complemented the wit and emotion the primary trio Patrice (Samara De jonge), Evan Goldman (Charlie Van Stone), and Archie (Micah Garvin) breathe into the story, the actors delivering a palpable chemistry between a group of middle-schoolers who are encountering the struggles of adolescence for the first time together.
It really seemed as though every team member had the opportunity to showcase their strengths in the production. Jacob Calver’s lighting and projection design provided a refreshing and dynamic atmosphere that complemented the narrative drama, while highlighting the theatricality of the musical numbers and the emotions of the character. Alex Bulch’s props and costumes created an aesthetic language onstage that brought the world of Appleton, Indiana to Kingston, Ontario. As they develop as a stage designer, , I’m excited to see how their work can go beyond replicating the details at play, and be truly infused with the themes of the story.
At intermission, Michener, along with vocal director Emma Babcock and stage manager Remira Pryce, emphasized the importance of a healthy production process. They all noted how their care and support for the cast helped shape the production to what it was, ensuring the production team shared a universal impulse to guide everyone to success. And it paid off. Ensemble members Stella Groen, Emma Detomasi, and Charlotte Peveril were truly able to demonstrate their vocal range and refine the emotional texture of each song. Whether it’s going the extra mile in rehearsal schedule or rewriting lyrics in Bad News to be less derogatory against women, they would do it all. On or offstage, Michener’s desire for creating community through theatre is more than apparent.
If you’re around the age of 13, this musical shows you that you are not alone and that there is always more to learn from and about each other. And for those of us who are older, it’s a great way to relive all those childhood dramas while being able to laugh at the absurdity that comes with it. The show ends with a critical reminder that we all have a “little more homework to do”. , I left the Rotunda theatre feeling like I was given a warm hug and encouraging pat on the back–something I wish I had back when I was 13.
This show is a great representation of what theatre for young audiences could be when everyone dedicates themselves to not just the final product, but the process as well. This show has it all – comedy, talent, and most importantly, heart.
Blue Canoe Theatrical Production’s 13 was a part of the Juvenis Festival and ran from April 28th to April 30th at the Rotunda Theatre. Click here for more information on the Juvenis Festival.