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Broadway Bound's 13 The Musical

Presented by: Broadway Bound

Broadway Bound is now a vibrant, well-established Seattle musical theater training program for kids through high school. But it started when Jimmy Nixon, a stage and television veteran, and family, moved here and didn’t find a program for their little 8-year-old daughter that supported her love of musicals.

So, they started a little effort at BF Day Elementary for after school. Jimmy Nixon, artistic director, remembers, “It was just 8 or so kids whose parents signed up for after school programs and I offered my services. And we did The Me Nobody Knows. And the parents at BF Day loved it and the school asked for it as an assembly, and they suggested finding a place during Christmas for more families to see it (free).

“So we went to Hamilton Middle School lunch room. John Stanford, the (Seattle Schools) superintendent at that time was in the building and he looked in and got excited about this after school program. He asked me to show it to people in Olympia, the legislature and governor (Gary Locke). He rented us a bus and we took the kids to Olympia so we could sing songs to the legislature.”

Jimmy had a studio in Los Angeles, so running a small program like that didn’t seem difficult. His first piano player was a volunteer dad from the school. Jimmy says, “I started two programs: musical theater and cooking. The cooking didn’t do as well.”

Eventually, the program grew and moved to Hamilton Middle School and grew again and created its own non-profit. Daughter Ryah Nixon always loved singing and musicals, and with natural talent and partly through having this kind of training available, was able to transition to tough theater school Carnegie Mellon, get cast as leads at Village Theatre in Issaquah, and has most recently toured and gone on as Doralee in the 9 to 5 The Musical cast.

Jimmy specifies that it’s basically first come, first served for kids, even if there is an audition process. “We never turn any child away, regardless of finances or talent or anything. We have 250 slots available. When those are filled, we’re done. We have a waiting list. We put the audition sign up online, and they can fill it out online or come into the office or whatever is easiest. If they show up for the audition, they’re in. They don’t have to do anything spectacular they just have to show up.

“Scholarships are a big part because there is so much need these days. The last couple years, scholarships have doubled! We give them, even if we don’t have money for them.”

Currently, Broadway Bound serves 1500 kids a year in two semesters, summer-long sessions and winter and spring break camps. The annual budget is around $1.2 million and children who took classes in their programs have used skills learned in the program in all sorts of ways, including in professional musicals and television.

Jimmy says, “People should know it costs a lot of money to do what we do. Our mission was always to put the kids into as many theaters as possible to give them all kinds of experience. We’re creating the next generation of performers and technicians and audience. And they develop their abilities to speak in public and develop other skills that they can use in other areas of life.”

Broadway Bound also hires professional performers, stage technicians, musicians and choreographers to give the children exposure to the highest levels of training they can find. Their production of 13 The Musical, now playing at ACT Theatre (through December 18th), exemplifies all that they strive to do.

Not only do they have set designers like Norm Spencer and Martin Christoffel, and lighting designer Robert Aguilar, all of whom have designed for the biggest budget theaters in our region, the production is choreographed by Sonia Dawkins who choreographed the movement for The Brothers Size at the Seattle Rep, this reviewer’s top pick for productions in 2011, if not this century so far!

BB did 13 The Musical last spring as a regular presentation and Carlo Scandiuzzi encouraged them to bring it to ACT Theatre during this winter as a co-production. All but two of the 26 students are repeating from spring, and Jimmy Nixon reached out to composer Jason Robert Brown to visit and see the show.

JRB, as he’s known, not only came to see the show, he agreed to perform a benefit concert for BB, and gave the cast a master class before opening night! The concert was a fantastic display of Brown’s work and attractive personality and talent for performing. There are many talented composer/lyricists out there who might not be able to manage performing a whole concert of their work. JRB’s delivery has an artless, blurting it out without thinking, feeling, but he’s funny and creates a great evening of music.

Jimmy says about watching JRB work with the cast of 13, “I enjoyed it thoroughly. He treated them very professionally. He treated them like it was a master class at college. And he was demanding and abrupt and expected them to get it quickly and challenged them.

“That’s absolutely what I hoped he would do and we what do all the time. We expect that. To be able to give that to the kids at Broadway Bound, we always strive to raise the bar for the kids. Someday they’re going to go out in the real world and the bar will be very high. The higher it is here, the more experience they'll have to reach for when they get out there.

“The kids talked with me about those moments. They were overjoyed with the opportunity. I was a little worried because he was a little hard on a couple. Like Tyler, he took the criticism like a pro and didn’t even question it. He took risks and accomplished it.”

Tyler Maez did the role of Archie, a child with a terminal disease, who is awkward and geeky and shunned. It’s a difficult role, but by the end of the play, Tyler was clearly one of the standout performers. Helped to slow down and articulate, just a bit, by JRB, and encouraged to “land” the jokes better, Tyler clearly took his critiques to heart and makes the role his own. He’s also one of the strongest natural singers on stage.

The musical is about 12-year-old Evan (Adam Westerman), forced by divorce to move from very Jewish New York City to very Christian Indiana, right at the time he’s planning his bar mitzvah (around his 13th birthday), a coming-of-age Jewish ceremony more frequently including a very expensive party, these days. Worried that he won’t be cool, he crafts a plan to get the coolest kids in his new school to come to the party so he will be popular afterward.

Of course, he ends up hurting his new friend, Patrice (Elliott Moore), who is also disliked and sidelined for little reason, and catering to the class bully, Brett (outrageous, ready for anything Michael Kaczkowski) and the popular girls Kendra (Mary Armintrout) and Lucy (Sarah Torres). Eventually, he learns who is a valuable friend and who isn’t; a key lesson of the musical.

The music is tough (to sing), interesting, non-stereotypical, and on-point. The production is entertaining and gets the lessons across well. It’s a frank portrayal of young teens, but not nearly as graphic as young teens really get in private. So, maybe the five year olds shouldn’t come, but it’s fine for the rest of the family.

The cast is enthusiastic and talented. They are working hard to make this a crisp presentation. Adam Westerman does a great job of holding the show on his shoulders. The other leads inhabit their characters well. Elliott as Patrice has some of great songs to sing (The Lamest Place in the World, What It Means to Be a Friend, and Good Enough) and is the conscience of the play. The production values are all top-notch, also.

Even their performance schedule mimics Broadway, since they’ll perform twice on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Try to get this in your schedule. I think you’ll be glad you did!

Written by:
Miryam Gordon

Added: December 13th 2011

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