13, The Musical: Exploring the Excitement and Angst of Turning 13

Written by Charles Ebbie Alfree II, 2014

Original article published on Delaware Arts INfo Blog

13, The Musical by Jason Robert Brown (music and lyrics) and Dan Elish and Robert Horn (book) is the story of a 12-year-old New York City boy (Evan) who's preparing for his Bar Mitzvah while his parents are preparing for divorce. Due to the circumstances, Evan and his mother are forced to move to an Indiana suburb. While adjusting to life in a predominately Christian 'burb, he's also trying to make new friends who will attend his Bar Mitzvah. The problem is -- will he settle for only inviting his unpopular new friends or try to impress the cool kids to attend?

13, The Musical has a simple story that's been told before, but it's pure FUN with an infectious Top 40 style score. The all-teen cast provides a great opportunity for parents to introduce theater to 'tweens and young teens alike. But, don't worry parents — there are plenty of gags and jokes for both the young and the young at heart to enjoy!

Director Nick D'Argenio has assembled an extremely talented group of teens — Amanda DeFilippis (Kendra), Branden Fletcher (Richie), Karalyn Joseph (Patrice), Katie Loftus (Cassie), Kyra McKillip (Charlotte), Wyatt McManus (Eddie), Lyndie Moe (Lucy), Nolan Moss (Simon), Gianni Palmarini (Evan), Felipe Rocha (Brett), Will Rotsch (Archie), Evelyn Schiavone (Molly), and Jacob Tracey (Malcolm) — and gives all of them the opportunity to take center stage and shine.

Palmarini is an exceptional performer who perfectly conveys Evan's conflicted feelings of wanting to fit in with the in-crowd, but yet wanting to remain loyal to his underdog friends (Patrice and Archie). Palmarini is a true triple threat, commanding the stage but never upstaging his fellow cast members. Joseph as Evan's outcast friend Patrice captures the strengths and insecurities of the character. She's working on having a friendship with Evan, but doesn't let down her guard or sacrifice her own convictions in the process. Rotsch as the terminally ill, yet confident underdog, Archie is hysterical, especially during the number "Terminal Illness" when he comically uses his illness to convince Evan's mother to purchase tickets for an R-rated horror movie for the protagonist's popular friends.

Although the cast has a scaled-down set for its performance, the boisterous choreography by Tommy Fisher-Klein keeps the show flowing. Mr. Fisher-Klein merges current dance steps with flips and other acrobatic moves that delight the audience. With musical direction by Anthony Vitalo, 13, The Musical's infectious score will have you smiling and wishing you were 13 again!

13, The Musical runs through February 2, at the Wilmington Drama League. Visit Wilmingtondramaleague.org or call 302.764.1172 for additional information and tickets.

Theater hires WDL teen cast of '13' to repeat show

Written by Ken Mammarella, May 29, 2014

Original article published in The News Journal

"I was impressed by the level of talent they showed," said Jesse Cline, Media's artistic director, in why he extended the invitation after seeing it at the league in January. (The eight performances in Media, Pennsylvania, run Friday-June 8. Tickets are $20 and $25. For details, go to mediatheatre.org.)

"Every family should see this," Cline said. "It involves all those questions and experiences about growing up."

"No one is perfect. ... Always keep trying," said Gianni Palmarini, who plays the lead, Evan.

"Trust your instincts, follow your heart, and stand up for what you believe in," said Lyndie Moe.

"Follow what you want to do, not what others want you to do," said Jacob Tracey.

"Sometimes the most unlikely people can be your greatest friends," said Will Rotsch.

"No matter what happens, things always get better in the end," said Nolan Moss.

Or, as Evan might think, they have learned the true meaning of friendship.

Freelance writer Ken Mammarella is a longtime volunteer at the Wilmington Drama League but was not involved in "13."

The 13 young performers in the Wilmington Drama League production of "13" are reviving the musical at the Media Theatre for the Performing Arts.

Kathy Buterbaugh, the musical's production manager, said this is the first time in her two decades with the league that she knows of a league show that has earned a run at another theater – and one that's bigger (620 seats vs. 260) and a different level (professional vs. community).

The show focuses on Evan, a Jewish New Yorker readying his bar mitzvah and sent to an Indiana town after his parents divorce. "Evan finds out who his real friends are and what real friends are," Buterbaugh said, adding that it also involves "what's important in your life" at all ages. Witness a song called "A Little More Homework," she said, which reflects everyone's growing responsibilities.

Transplanting the show involved commitments from a lot of people, with the first issue ensuring that the cast, with all their school and community activities, was available. Also important were the schedules of the six in the band and the four adults who created the league production (director Nick D'Argenio, choreographer Tommy Fisher-Klein, music director Anthony Vitalo and Buterbaugh). She anticipated that only one band member could not remain involved. Members of the cast, the crew and the band are receiving small stipends, she said, as part of the Media theater's educational programming.

Some set pieces and props were transported, but this coming-of-age story focuses on acting and singing, not flying carpets and falling chandeliers. The cast members – some 13 years old, some not – brushed up at a few rehearsals after the show closed at the league in February.

Cast members show a range in what they hope the audience takes away (they also noted the humor, the emotion and the energy that comes with the messages):

"Being society's definition of 'cool' or 'popular' shouldn't make you change who you are, and it really isn't that great in the long run," said Katie Loftus.

Cast members – Gianni, Lyndie, Jacob, Katie, Will, Nolan, Amanda DeFilippis, Branden Fletcher, Karalyn Joseph, Kyra McKillip, Wyatt McManus, Felipe Rocha and Evelyn Schiavone – have been together a lot.

"They became a unit that seems inseparable. I've never seen a cast stay together like that," Buterbaugh said. "They audition together. They see each other's plays. They're loyal to each other. They know what sticking together means."

Read or Share this story: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/life/2014/05/29/theater-hires-wdl-teen-cast-repeat-show/9722941/

Aston teen comes of age at the Media Theatre

Original article published in The Delaware County Daily Times May 27, 2014

MEDIA — Media Theatre New School student Gianni Palmarini is one of the main reasons for “13: The Musical” appearing on The Media Theatre stage, beginning Friday and running through June 8.

This is due to Palmarini’s involvement with the production when it was produced earlier this year by the Wilmington Drama League.

The Jason Robert Brown musical captured Palmarini’s attention when he heard about auditions for “13” taking place at the Wilmington, Del., theater company. The score was enticing, and the story chronicling the lives of middle school students facing the difficulties that come with friendships, divorce, health challenges and young love was irresistible.

Like the characters in the musical, Palmarini is 13 years old and is facing the realities of being a teen.

“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,” said Palmarini. “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.”

The unique arrangement of bringing the Wilmington Drama League’s production to Delaware County was born after Media Theatre Artistic Director Jesse Cline attended a performance in Wilmington to support Palmarini. The former “Delco Idol Junior” winner was cast in the role of conflicted Jewish teen Evan Goldman.

Impressed by the production and the stellar young talent in the show, Cline decided Wilmington’s “13” had to be seen by a wider audience. Cline feels that the partnership exemplifies its mission to support and showcase young talent.

“We at the Media Theatre have an obligation to provide opportunities not just for young actors, but for audiences to see what these youth are really all about,” Cline said. “The musical “13,” as presented by Wilmington Drama League, was very much similar in style to the type of work we do with teens. 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.”

Due to Palmarini’s involvement, the extension of Wilmington Drama League’s “13” and its transfer to the Media Theatre was born. The show, which will feature performances on Friday evenings, a matinee and evening performance on Saturdays, and a matinee on Sunday each week, also features 12 other actors from Delaware and Pennsylvania who have found a strong kinship performing the insightful, humorous, and poignant musical.

Palmarini was overwhelmed when the show’s director, Nick D’Argenio, called him with the news that he had been cast as Evan Goldman, the show’s protagonist.

“The music is difficult and the role requires you to be likeable even though Evan is not always the nicest guy,” Palmarini said. “I knew it would be a tough process.”

Palmarini, however, is not immune to facing challenges.

“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.”

So it was a natural event for Cline and his team to travel to Wilmington to see Palmarini in “13” in January,

“I was proud of what my cast mates and I had accomplished,” Palmarini said. “I wanted to share with the Media Theatre what we had done. But I never imagined that they’d be so impressed by the show that they would invite us to bring it to Media. That was a dream come true.”

In “13,” Palmarini plays a young Jewish boy from New York City who is dealing with the separation of his parents, a move to Indiana, and the loss of the only life he knew. Palmarini had to learn to sing the Haftarah in Hebrew, which is a right of passage for Bar Mitzvah.

“Doing that was one of the final things I worked on for the show,” Palmarini said.

“My mom found some movies about the importance of Bar Mitzvah. It’s really all about taking responsibility for yourself and your faith. I did some research about why it was so important to the role I play in “13.”

With the extension and re-mounting of “13” in Media, Palmarini and his fellow cast members will have the opportunity to reunite.

“We understand each other,” Palmarini said. “We are all teens and we love performing. We’ve developed a life long bond.”

Palmarini is an eighth-grader at Northley Middle School in Aston, not far from Wilmington, where several of his new theater friends reside.

“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.”

The play has a pop-rock musical theater score from Brown, the Tony-winning composer who has also created Broadway’s recent “Bridges of Madison County” as well as “Parade” and “The Last Five Years.” The show has a Drama Desk Award nomination for Outstanding Lyrics.

All Broadway Series and Youth Series at the Media Theatre are produced by Media Music Theatre Co., as well as its educational programs from which Palmarini found his calling as an actor.

“The work done by this young cast is a testament to the high-quality professional training they are receiving both at Wilmington Drama League and our own training program at the Media Theatre,” Cline said.

For tickets to “13: The Musical,” call 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org

URL: http://www.delcotimes.com/arts-and-entertainment/20140527/aston-teen-comes-of-age-at-the-media-theatre

© 2014 The Delaware County Daily Times (http://www.delcotimes.com)

Unionville student performing at Media Theatre

Written by Candice Monhollan, May 29, 2014

Original article published in Kennett Paper

It was one thing for Unionville freshman Karalyn Joseph to have a lead role in “13 the Musical” at the Wilmington Drama League, but now she gets to perform it on a bigger stage at the Media Theatre.

The cast, made up entirely teenagers, were “bought” by the Media Theatre after professionals, including the Artistic Director, attended one of the shows. They enjoyed it so much they are now running the show from May 30 to June 8 at their own theater.

“They thought this was a really good production,” Joseph said. “They had two weeks open in their schedule and asked the cast to fill in. They worked out the details and now we get to perform the show again and be paid.”

Joseph never originally was interested in theater, but instead started off dancing. She joined her mother on stage two years ago in a musical and that was all she wrote.

That little taste hooked her and now she can’t get enough, which is what brought her to the Wilmington Drama League.

“Auditions were in December (for the League),” Joseph said. “I really didn’t expect to get in, let alone one of the leads.”

“I basically started crying of happiness,” she said. “I ran down the hallway screaming at my mom. That was a really amazing moment.”

Since the cast is made up of students of roughly the same age, it was easy to make connections amongst each other.

“We all bonded really, really quickly and became best friends,” Joseph said. “It’s really special because there is only 13 people in the cast and considering it’s teenagers, you’d expect loads of drama. There is none of that, which to me is mindboggling.”

The show is a coming-of-age story with a rock and pop score by Jason Robert Brown. It was a hit with the young actors and actresses at the Wilmington Drama League and they are thrilled to have the rare opportunity to put the show on again in a different venue.

“We were really, really upset that the show was going to end,” Joseph said. “Many people were brought to tears that we got to have this amazing experience one more time. I consider all 12 of these people to be my best friends.”

“13 The Musical” will have eight shows at the Media Theatre starting May 30 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.mediatheatre.org.

URL: http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com/general-news/20140529/unionville-student-performing-at-media-theatre

© 2014 The Southern Chester County Weeklies (http://www.southernchestercountyweeklies.com)