The musical 13, starring 13 teenagers playing out tween angst, is a big boisterous show, and the young cast's energy is joyous and infectious, even if a few of the numbers seem like they were designed for The Electric Company. The only drawback to the show is that Jason Robert Brown's story is, in some ways, unworthy of the teenaged talents director Blake Coheley assembled. The archetypal/stereotypical quarterback and cheerleader melodrama the story revolves around is certainly believable, but that's a nice way of saying it's too much of a cliche. The story could be more original, and this cast could handle a more complex and compelling drama.
Evan Goldman (Rilan Roppolo) moves with his just-divorced mother from Manhattan to small-town Indiana on the eve of his bar mitzvah. He wants to have a grand celebration of the passage into adulthood, and that requires befriending everyone who's popular, most importantly the quarterback/cheerleader duo who will guarantee everyone else's attendance. Evan ingratiates himself to QB Brett (Dillon Tauzin) by finessing his matchmaking pursuit of Kendra (Morgan Laurent). Teens trying to fit in can be ruthless about making sure others never do, however, and the challenge is to get all the invitees to accept one another.
It's a clever and funny ruse to focus the kids' hormonal rage on getting tongue instead of getting laid. It preserves the story's innocence and keeps more serious issues of adult responsibility at bay. But some of the funniest moments in the show occur when scenes mock adults who act like children. It's hard to miss that an homage to Kendra by Brett's closest friends seems to parody the conventions of the male desire in hip-hop lyrics and videos.
The greatest humor in the show comes from young teenagers' ability to simultaneously disavow, mock and pursue their own interests. Archie (Christopher Newhouse) is handicapped and walks with crutches, but he is not at all shy about manipulating others' pity to get what he wants, which is a date with Kendra. Laurent also is funny when she conjures the spasmodic, giddy enthusiasm of a head cheerleader. The show is best when it allows the kids to show they are sort of wiser than their years but happy to live in the moment, particularly those of youthful indiscretion. — Will Coviello
8 p.m. Thu.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun.
Le Petit Theatre, 616 St. Peter St., 522-2081; www.lepetittheatre.com