Back in the fall of 2008, I had freshly arrived in New York City to begin my college career. I was already writing for the Arts & Culture section of Stern College's newspaper, The Observer, and my section editor informed me that she had been contacted by the press department of a new Broadway musical called 13. We were given prime orchestra seats amid an audience that skewed very young, mostly because the cast was made up entirely of teenagers. Since it was my first time – and only time, so far – seeing a show in previews, I wanted it to succeed. If it did, then I would have somehow participated in the genesis of something great. Alas, the show closed four months later – most likely because the audience that would find the show most appealing was the teenage bracket, which isn't exactly the target demographic of Broadway musicals.
The storyline was cute and familiar: A Jewish boy is about to have his Bar Mitzvah when his parents move him away from shiny NYC to Bumbletown, Indiana. There he deals with the intrigue of adolescence and puberty in a small town. He learns valuable lessons about friendship and the cost of popularity.
That is, I wouldn't remember much about 13 if it didn't have a surprising track record of cast members becoming stars in the seven years since. The biggest alum is Ariana Grande, who played Charlotte. After being a regular on a Nickelodeon TV show, she became an international pop star. Elizabeth Gillies, who played the gossipy gospel singer Lucy (above), also became a TV phenomenon through Nickelodeon and has since moved up to FX. Graham Phillips played Evan, the protagonist of 13, and is now working in both film and TV, including as a series regular The Good Wife.
The musical itself might have been a flop, but I'd like to suggest that as a sample, 13 was wildly successful. Giving legitimate Broadway stage time to an entire cast of underage actors yielded actual results. Maybe the combination of subjects and subject matter didn't sit well with Broadway audiences, but by giving these actors an unheard-of opportunity at such a young age, the producers of 13 clearly jump started the careers of at least three of them. I'd say that if such a production were to be staged again, you'd be able to pick out three more rising stars. So that's my two cents: Stage more young plays so we can have our own previews of the actors who are going to make it big some day.
Thoughts with Alisa
Current writing on pop culture. Also known as my post-graduate school writing motivation.