The value of the Riverlea Theatre's Stagecraft school of performing arts can be seen in the number of young people coming to its classes from Waikato towns says Musikmakers 13 producer Jenni Murphy-Scanlon.
About 25 per cent of its 120 students journey from as far as Matamata, Pirongia and Te Kauwhata up to three times a week to take part in the Stagecraft programme with 30 students helped by scholarships funded through Trust Waikato.
"Many of the Waikato towns have very active performance scenes and their own theatre groups. It's a real positive to be able to attract talented young people to Stagecraft from all over the region. With Riverlea they can further develop their skills and on to become involved in larger productions.''
Among the cast of 18 in Musikmakers 13 are Sophie Down, 14, from Morrinsville, Sasha Kirkwood, 16, from Raglan and Deanna Young, 14, from Cambridge who have been involved in their own school and local theatre groups.
First staged off-Broadway in 2008, 13 is a coming-of-age musical comedy with music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown and book by Dan Elish and Robert Horn. Their performances in 13 are reputed to have launched the professional careers of Ariana Grande and Elizabeth Gillies.
Musikmakers' director Julia Turner said the story starts in New York with Evan Goldman, (played by Daniel Cruickshank). Evan's parents split up and they go to live in another town where Evan attends a new school and goes about making new friends.
"Evan is a Jewish boy and he has his bar mitzvah coming up. He thinks he has to make the popular kids like him and be in the 'cool' set. But he finds out who his real friends are. There's a lot of fun and a lot of singing and dancing - we have learned more than 15 songs," says Julia.
Evan is starting to understand what growing up means, and the characters tell of what surprises turning 13 brought for each of them in songs like A Little More Homework. It is full of memorable tunes and the cast love it.
"The show has only been performed a few times in New Zealand but is very popular in US high schools. In our cast we have several brother and sister teams - Paris and Jess Eyeington and Jack and Libby Turner.''
13 is not recommended for small children but is fine for adults and teenagers.
Musikmakers' 13, directed by Julia Turner, production Jenni Murphy-Scanlon, vocal director Kirsty Skomski, choreographer Abby Dutton can be experienced at the Riverlea Theatre May 18 to June 1. Tickets www.iticket.co.nz