What We Can Learn About Bar Mitzvahs From “13: The Musical” | MitzvahMarket | MitzvahMarket

What We Can Learn About Bar Mitzvahs From “13: The Musical”

What We Can Learn About Bar Mitzvahs From “13: The Musical”

Jason Robert Brown’s 13 The Musical hit Netflix last Friday, bringing the consummate Bar Mitzvah musical to life. The show originally opened on Broadway in 2008 and launched the careers of actress Liz Gillies and pop idol Ariana Grande. Now, more than a decade after the show’s initial run, it’s made its small screen debut, bringing the story of a struggling Bar Mitzvah boy to the homes of millions.


The story follows Evan Goldman, a 12 year old New York City native whose life is turned upside down when his parents divorce just before the start of his 8th grade year. As he moves from the big city to a small town in Indiana, Evan comes to terms with the idea that his Bar Mitzvah party will take place in a new and unfamiliar place. “A Bar Mitzvah is the event that defines you! The Jewish Superbowl!” Evan exclaims within the first five minutes of the film. Thus, when he arrives at his new school, Evan will do anything to make good with the popular kids and get them to attend his party.


As Evan ventures to learn what it really means to be a Jewish adult, he struggles to reign in his selfishness and immaturity, going to dire straits to earn himself a spot with the cool kids. Only once he’s had to grapple with the choices he’s made and the way they’ve impacted his friends does Evan come to understand that a Bar Mitzvah is about so much more than a cool party.


Where the film cuts some music from the original Broadway score, it adds in rich development of its characters, allowing for even greater lessons learned throughout. In repairing his broken relationship to his parents, Evan learns how to both ask for forgiveness and forgive others. Through huge life transitions, new responsibilities, and the fear and confusion of growing up, Evan’s story teaches the audience about the difficulties of young adulthood- while also showing that there’s always a way through problems that may feel daunting and never ending.


The young cast of actors warmly and proficiently portray the trials and tribulations of adolescence, with moving and impressive performances from all. They are supported by an allstar adult cast featuring Josh Peck as Evan’s rabbi, Debra Messing as Evan’s mother, and Rhea Perlman as his grandmother.


Funny, heartwarming, and challenging, 13 The Musical is a film that the whole family can enjoy together. Whether your Bar/Bat Mitzvah was 50 years ago or is still yet to come, the takeaways and lessons will resonate throughout generations. 


By Vered Ornstein

Posted in Mitzvah Advice and tagged .

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