I'm still waiting for Jason Robert Brown to write a musical as worthwhile as his "Parade," but in the meantime, "13" is a fun diversion. It's not really ambitious, and it's a tad gimmicky (an ALL TEEN cast! WITH an ALL TEEN band!), but I'm thankful it's not pretentious, like his overrated "The Last Five Years."
The recording is solid from beginning to end, with no real clunkers-- it's a good score with smart lyrics, adding some freshness to what are really the usual teen cliches-- geek going for the popular girl, mean girls, sweet outcast girl who likes the new kid, everyone trying to "fit in," etc. When the jock character sings about giving the popular girl "the tongue" you can't help but smile--feels so quaint in comparison to the sexed up teens of "Spring Awakening"(and come to think of it, quaint in comparison to REAL LIFE 13 year-olds!).
Instead of the angst of "Spring," what we get here is a bunch of catchy, mainly upbeat songs sung by some very capable, and even charming, young performers. To be sure, a cd full of teenage singers (YOUNG teenagers at that) is not one I would expect to be replaying often. But what can I say? They won me over.
Surprising personal sidenote: According to my itunes, my most played song on the cd is "Opportunity," an infectious pop-rock tune sung with great style by the recording's vocal standout Elizabeth Egan Gillies. And wouldn't you know? Cut from the show.