13 The Musical – Jopuka brings the Central Coast back with a bang!

Jopuka Productions

4 – 19 February 2021. You can grab your tickets here.

Images: Amy Seaborn Media

Please note: I attended this production as a full paying ticket holder in order to relay a complete audience member experience.

It was a fear we all shared in 2020: that the COVID-19 pandemic would hurt theatre irretrievably. While the world was occupied with how to work from home and how to navigate a government stimulus package, theatre had nowhere to go but dark. An art form whose vibrancy and meaning stems from humans gathering in a room to see and be seen, suffered a stunning attack on its legitimacy.

It’s almost a year since we all experienced the first wave of lockdowns. Theatre underwent a financial cleansing it didn’t need. This financial cleansing is nothing compared to the surface cleansing we now understand we do need. The energetic intimacy theatre embodies, that delicious dark space where we share the experience of transportation now includes sanitary hand wash, face masks and intentionally vacant seats.

Yet despite this, theatre moves ever forward, fighting for the un-nameable ecstasy of a shared story in a small room.

For the Central Coast of NSW, the reemergence of theatre has come from Jopuka Productions and its vibrant cast of talented young people. What better way to inject promise and hope into a dark space than with young people telling their story of growing up and becoming fully functioning human beings? 13 The Musical has received a cult following over the years due to its catchy tunes and it’s on point subject matter. Who can resist a stage filled with teens telling us about their unique sufferings, such as what to do about being unpopular and where to buy a wonder bra? For those of us who have successfully navigated our teens, the warmth of knowing nothing changes while everything seems brand new is a delight that consumes through every one of the clever catchy numbers.

For Jopuka Productions, a theatre company dedicated to youth theatre, 13 The Musical makes perfect sense. Whipped up in six weeks over the school holidays, produced by young adults in their late teens and early twenties, three casts of different age groups perform across the stage over a period of two weeks. The result is a high energy show that delights at every turn.

While experience and talent are essential for a good show, 13 The Musical needs the joie de vivre of the early teen for it to work. Jopuka has a unique ability to create safe, joyful rehearsal spaces for young people to cultivate their talents and vibrantly self-express. This comes through in these productions, giving the audience a stunning reminder of what it is to be young, confused and enthusiastic. The audience is cheerfully reminded of how the overarching intensity of that age bracket becomes imbued with joy in retrospect. Life is hard, but “isn’t-it-fun?” is the predominant message that can’t help but come through in these performances.

All three productions are put together by director Joshua Maxwell, musical director Quinn Carter and choreographer Marlee Carter. The three work together to create a stage that allows for that magical thing: a simple production performed well. The simplicity lies in a crisp cohesive choreography, and a clarity of delivery that frees the audience to sit back and enjoy with relish. The three are supported by a string of talented young people seeking to hone and improve their production skills. It’s all tied together by producer Anna Carter and her team. A special shout out to Kelly Maxwell in charge of welfare. One can only imagine how difficult that job must be with a pandemic over the top of navigating a group of teens and their concerns.

Every night Nik Lyons and Daniel Lowe bring a lighting and sound design that exceeds expectations one might associate with regional theatre. I was fortunate enough to attend opening night and saw the Bronx cast, an extraordinary show headed by Spencer Johnston, Mia Cross, Bear Peterson, Steph Hanlon and Chloe McWilliam. Vocal coach Jayne Johnstone has everyone whipped into great shape giving this marvelous cast a great opportunity to take advantage of all the fantastic numbers the musical offers.

Stand outs on the night, aside from the leads who were all on point, was Dylan Vermuyten and his squad of talented cool kids Katie Hallet, Lyra Soanes, Zac Cunynghame and Jacinta Burley who brought several numbers to vibrant life. Sebbie Thorton-Walker gives us a Bar Mitzvah dream that no audience will soon forget, and Abigail Gracia, Aliza Dewries and Sarah Harrington sing up a storm in a variety of numbers that threaten to steal the show. However, make no mistake about it, no member of the cast lets the show down, as those behind the scenes have done a stellar job with preparation.

A brief word about the tremendous space. The Red Tree Theatre is a new theatrical space in Tuggerah that is an exciting addition to theatre on The Central Coast. A professional theatre space, elegant in design and suitable for a variety of theatrical needs, the Eldersless foundation deserve tremendous thanks for such a gift to the local community.

If you haven’t bought tickets to 13 The Musical yet, you must do so. This is a highly recommended production that will give you the familiar theatrical thrill ride and assure you that theatre is back – and it’s stronger than ever.

You can grab your tickets here.