I recently saw the Broadway version of Jason Robert Brown's new musical 13, which is currently in previews at the Jacobs Theater (formerly the Royale). When I saw the show at the Goodspeed, I found it promising but a tad earnest. (Read my review.) The creators have since made significant changes to the show, some of them very effective, others not so much.
One thing that is completely different is the set, designed here by David Farley (Sunday in the Park With George). At the Goodspeed, the show had more of a unit set representing a high school gym, with set pieces that rolled on and off. The Broadway set is far more literal and flashy, but I can't really say that it's more effective. Perhaps the producers thought that they needed to give Broadway audiences more visuals to justify the $111.50 top ticket price.
Composer/lyricist Jason Robert Brown seems to have made considerable changes in the score, which are for the most part effective. Act one seems more streamlined, getting to the core action of the show more efficiently. The book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn contains much that is really true-to-life, and some very funny one-liners, a few of which were a bit too sophisticated to be coming from the mouths of babes. There are also some really edgy/questionable jokes that might not go over too well with some of the PC New Yorker crowds.
I saw the show early in previews, and at that point it seemed that director Jeremy Sams had quite a few spots in the show that needed focus and tightening, in particular the opening number and the opening of Act 2. The last number in Act 1, "Here I Come," also needed attention. It takes place in the lobby of the cineplex where the characters in the show have just seen a slasher horror film, and the character Evan is surrounded by all these video-game machines (which doubtless made a dent in the show's production budget). Well, of course, the games figure into the business of the number, but it's not really organic. Then the cast launches into this (presumably fantasy) "You Got Served" dance sequence, in which the Evan character challenges his adversaries to this inscrutable dance off. It really had me scratching my head.
The show still has a rather condescending attitude toward Indiana. In fact, the creators have added a song called "The Lamest Place on Earth," which is actually a pretty good song, although the bridge is dull. And speaking of lame, "What It Means to Be a Friend" still has a horribly cliched title, but it makes for a nice moment in the show, mostly due to the talented young actress playing Patrice, one Allie Trimm. Other standouts in the cast include the deliciously evil Elizabeth Gillies as the plotting Lucy, and the endearing Aaron Simon Gross as Evan's wisecracking (and terminal) sidekick.
I saw 13 at a Saturday matinee, so I got to see Corey Snide as the central character Evan. Snide doesn't look the least bit Jewish, and he acts way too much with his hands, but he's a great dancer, which is to be expected since he's played the title character in Billy Elliot in London and Australia. One of the highlights of the show is Christopher Gattelli's dynamic choreography, which nicely captures the countenance and attitude of contemporary teens.
The creators seem to know that Gattelli's choreography will be one of the show's main selling points, so they've added a coda after the curtain call, which wasn't listed in the program, apparently called "Brand New You." (I'm guessing based on the lyrics.) The song is superfluous but inoffensive, and it does give some of the supporter players a chance to show off their vocal and tap-dancing skills. But I think it comes dangerously close to the concert that the producers of Grease added to the end of the show to give "American Idol" winner Taylor Hicks something else to do in the show besides just "Beauty School Dropout."