Theater & Arts

For 2nd production of ‘13,’ Fresno company turns to young veteran

It’s tempting for people who aren’t familiar with the work of Jason Robert Brown to write off his “13: The Musical,” about a 13-year-old boy who moves from New York City to small-town Indiana and adjusts to a new school and way of life, as standard teen fare. That would be a mistake. Brown (“The Last Five Years,” “Parade,” “The Bridges of Madison County”) is one of Broadway’s most talented composers, creating lush and accessible scores with perceptive lyrics that home in on the fundamentals of human emotion.

Hannah Huyck was in the central San Joaquin Valley premiere production of “13,” performed by Children’s Musical Theaterworks, in 2010. Six years later, at age 20, she’s back directing a revival of the show, which opens Friday, March 11. We caught up with her for an interview.

Q: What do you remember most about that production?

A: This show will always be one of my favorites that I’ve ever done, which is why I was so eager to be a part of it this time around. The music is what really made me fall in love with it. I personally am in favor of the more modern style musicals and I remember being so excited to be able to perform this music at such a young age.

Q: I remember that Ryan Beatty, the Clovis singer who has forged a successful national pop-music career, played the leading role. Do you keep in touch with him at all? Did you all know at the time he was hoping for a bigger career in entertainment?

A: Ryan was in the show with us in 2010 but unfortunately we aren’t in much contact anymore. It’s funny because back then, we all knew that performing was something we were all so passionate about that I don’t think he stuck out any more specifically than anyone else. I am super happy that he has had all of the successes he has, and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to be in such a special show together. He deserves everything that comes his way.

Q: What is your concept for the production?

A: My goal from day one was for when you walk into the theater doors, you feel like you’re at a rock concert. Jason Robert Brown’s music in this show is amazing and that is my main focus. The set is very simplistic and representational versus when we did it, it was more towards the realistic end. The kids and the music are the most important elements to “13” and I want everyone to leave singing the songs.

Q: “13: The Musical” features younger teens, but it’s not a “kiddie” show by any means. What are your thoughts on the challenges (both light-hearted and more serious) that the characters face?

A: Correct, this show is not a “kiddie” show in any sense. The issues the characters face in this story are some extremely tough ones we face as adults, but also some that we can look back on and laugh at ourselves for going through as teenagers. The content in this show is relevant to people of all ages, which is why I think it is so powerful and hilarious. Everyone can absolutely relate to the story in some way or another.

Q: Do you think this show will “age” as it gets older, or will it still be relevant in coming decades?

A: The themes in “13” will always stay relevant. Teenagers who come to see the show will connect because they can relate in a more current way, and adults will connect because they can reminisce to a time when they were in the shoes of these characters. The issues these kids face will never go away so if performed in 10 years from now, this show will still hit as hard as it does now.

Q: Favorite song?

A: The closing song, “A Little More Homework.” It embodies every theme throughout the whole story and sums it all up in a very “13” way. Watching a cast just stand and sing a beautiful song is a very powerful way to end a show and I look forward to it every run.

Q: Does your age help to relate to your actors?

A: I think it is a huge reason why this process has been so successful. My cast and I have a great relationship, which is something I am extremely thankful for. They have respect for me and understand I know what I’m talking about, but we also have a very strong connection as friends, which is huge for this type of a show.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself.

A: I am currently a woman studies and political science major at Fresno State, and I want to ultimately be in a position to be able to have my voice heard and fight for things I am passionate about. I currently am a full-time barista at Starbucks (which I absolutely love) and I am also currently very active in the Miss America Organization. I have the best and most supportive family, who I owe everything to and specifically my mom for being my rock even when I act like I don’t need one.

Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?

A: I think a lot depends on how old you are. The show hits differently depending on how recently you’ve gone through the things these characters have. Overall, though, I want the message to be of inclusion, as well as for everyone to be singing the songs as you drive home.

Q: Anything to add?

A: Everyone else on the production team was also in the “original” cast of 2010. We all came back to be apart of this show because it was so special to us and we wanted to ensure these kids had the same amazing experience that we did. We all know exactly what it feels like after performing this show each night and what an impact it can have on an audience, so we are making sure to try to keep that same sort of significance this time around. This has been a monster project and I hope the audience can feel all of the passion and energy behind it all.

13: The Musical

Theater preview

  • Friday, March 11, through Sunday, March 20
  • Fresno Memorial Auditorium, 2425 Fresno St.
  • www.cmtworks.org, 866-973-9610
  • $14-22 adults, $12-20 seniors, $10-$20 children and youth
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