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Tara
Tara Bradbury
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Thirteen teens team up for hit musical production

There’s a certain amount of singing into a hairbrush every teenage girl understands; maybe moreso if they’ve landed one of the lead roles in a musical.

Maggie Follett, 15, laughs when she admits she rehearses singing her songs in front of her bedroom mirror. When you’re playing a villain, she explains, practicing facial expressions is extremely important.

“It’s all about the eyes,” the Placentia teenager says.

Maggie is playing the role of antagonist Lucy in Best Kind Productions’ version of  the musical “13,” running at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s Thursday until Sunday.

“13” premiered in Los Angeles in 2007 and hit Broadway the following year. It tells the story of Evan Goldman, who, having moved with his family to New York from Indiana, is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and dealing with his parents’ divorce, all while facing a new school and social circles.

It’s a storyline that resonates with producer Kyle McDavid and director Tim Matson, both teachers, for a number of reasons.

“Kyle and I both like musicals, and we’re always looking to give kids a shot,” Matson says of the duo’s reasons for choosing to produce “13.”

“One of the reasons I like it is it’s a pretty accurate description of junior high life. The language is cleaned up from real junior high, but in terms of what goes on, it’s pretty accurate.”

Maggie can confirm this.

“My school is a little less dramatic than the play, because it is theatre, but there will always be girls fighting over guys and typical high school stuff.”

Lucy, says Maggie — who has performed in many of her school’s theatre productions — fits the type of role she’s usually asked to play: a baddie.

“I don’t know what it is,” she says, laughing. “I mostly get the very evil characters. I get the big, sassy roles. But Lucy is a go-getter, and I like that about her.”

Where Lucy is the typical mean girl in school, Patrice, played by Caitlin Harte of St. John’s, belongs to another familiar group.

“She’s a real geek,” Caitlin, 14, explains. Her costume consists of a denim dress and a neon floral cardigan, she adds.

“Patrice doesn’t have many friends and she’s not into the same things the other kids are. In some ways, I’m very much like Patrice in that I like books and I like doing my own thing, but playing someone with no friends was challenging.”

Working with an all-teen cast — like teaching teenagers at school, no doubt — comes with its own set of obstacles as well as benefits.

The upside: the performers have limitless energy.

The downside: having to harness it.

When that energy is focused, Matson says, the result is incredible and as professional as any adult production. There’s also a certain element of watching the kids’ energy build that’s fascinating to him.

“Sunday night we had the first sing-through with the band, and (the cast) was through the roof. The same thing happened when we moved into the LSPU Hall. That sort of energy is something you’re used to by the time you’ve done 10 or 15 shows, but it’s exciting to see them go through it for the first time.”

Matson gets that the junior high school years might not be what some theatre goers necessarily want to revisit, but says the comedy and modern musical score are, along with an energetic young cast, what drive the show.

As part of its mandate to give back to the community and to help young students, Best Kind Productions has announced, along with this show, the Best Kind Productions Arts Bursary, a yearly grant of $250 to be given to a Grade 12 student in the Avalon area entering a full-time post-secondary program in theatre, music, dance or visual arts in the next school year. The money from the grant will come from a portion of the ticket sales from “13” and each of Best Kind’s annual mainstage productions from now on.

“We strongly believe that supporting our young artists is an important step to nurturing our province’s artistic future,” McDavid told The Telegram in an email. “This is our way of giving someone a little boost as they begin their university or college education.”

Interested students can email bestkindproductions@gmail.com for an application package, and the deadline to apply is May 15. Applications will be reviewed by Best Kind’s artistic directors, and the chosen student will be notified by the end of the school year.

In addition to Maggie and Caitlin, “13” stars Lauren Shallow, Ryan Aspell, Jenny Mallard, Nathan Mackey, Mackenzie Drover, Hannah Wadman-Scanlan, Andrew Hepditch, Kyle Dalton, Ben Halfyard, Callum McGann and Matthew Hardy in the lead role of Evan Goldman. Tickets are $25, and there is a limited number of $5 tickets available for each showing for high school students. They can be purchased at the LSPU Hall box office, by calling the LSPU Hall at 753-4531 or online at www.rca.nf.ca.

tbradbury@thetelegram.com

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

Organizations: Best Kind Productions Arts Bursary, The Telegram

Geographic location: Placentia, Los Angeles, Broadway New York Indiana Avalon

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