13 The Musical Review: Catchy Songs for Gen Z

The young ensemble cast of the Jason Robert Brown's 13: The Musical

13 The Musical (or 13) is the latest film adaptation of a Jason Robert Brown musical, the first being The Last Five Years starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. This is a completely different kind of musical though, one that isn’t made for adults. The original cast on Broadway featured Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious and Dynasty) and Ariana Grande, who will return to musicals as Glinda in Wicked. Since the musical came out in 2007 originally, it’s been revamped for the young Gen Z, who are clearly the target audience.

13 The Musical Review

Eli Golden as Evan Goldman and the ensemble cast of 13 The Musical
Eli Golden as Evan Goldman and the ensemble cast of 13 The Musical

The movie centers on Evan Goldman as he is preparing for his bar mitzvah, which is a big deal for a young Jewish boy (trust me). However, his plans are upended by his parents’ divorce and moving from NYC to Walkerton, Indiana. Now in a completely new state, he has to try to make friends in order to throw the best bar mitzvah party ever.

As you can imagine, it all comes together in the end all tied up in a nice little bow. Eli Golden does a good job vocally in the role and his acting isn’t bad either, just a little over the top at times. It works with the material though, since middle school is a very over the top time for everyone. His best acting comes from when he is acting off of one of the adults in the film.

Josh Peck as the Rabbi in 13 The Musical
Josh Peck as the Rabbi in 13 The Musical

The young cast of tweens do a decent job with what they are given, but they are all more comfortable in the musical numbers than in the regular acting scenes. They’re young, so it’s to be expected as this is the first big project for the majority of them. The most well known of the young cast is JD McCrary, who voiced young Simba in Disney’s 2019 adaptation of The Lion King. He plays Brett, the cool kid in school who gets himself caught in a love triangle with Kendra (Lindsey Blackwell) and Lucy (Frankie McNellis).

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Also Read: Anything’s Possible Review: Real Gen Z Rom-Com

The adults in 13 are the ones who bring the star power to the film. Debra Messing and Peter Hermann play Evan’s parents, Jessica and Joel. Debra Messing gets the most screen time between the two since she is the one who takes Evan to Indiana after the divorce. They move in with Evan’s grandma, played by Rhea Perlman; I absolutely love seeing her on screen again, she’s just as funny as ever with what she’s given. We also get Josh Peck in a small supporting role as the Rabbi, which he does a nice job with and pulls off the cool, young Rabbi very well.

Debra Messing, Eli Golden, and Peter Hermann in 13: The Musical
13 The Musical. (L to R) Debra Messing as Jessica, Eli Golden as Evan, Peter Hermann as Joel in 13 The Musical. Cr. Alan Markfield/Netflix © 2022.

Overall, 13 The Musical isn’t a bad movie; it’s very formulaic and generic at times. The musical numbers are the highlight of the film, especially the opening number (which will be stuck in your head). It’s also nice to see a musical made just for kids, because they are the ones who will appreciate the message the most. It’s a 90 minute watch, so if you have some tweens at home, check it out on Netflix this weekend and have some fun with it!

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Written by Elliott Wishnefsky

Elliott Wishnefsky is a Film/TV Critic for FandomWire and a member of the Critics Choice Association. He's a graduate of Millersville University with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. Elliott is also a content creator for his own brand, Learning at the Movies! Twitter: @Learning_Movies | Facebook/Instagram: @learningatthemovies | TikTok: @learningatthemovies