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EntertainmentLong IslandTheater

The junior high school musical '13' makes the grade

Jason Robert Brown, creator of the musical

Jason Robert Brown, creator of the musical "13," with the young cast at Cultural Arts Playhouse in Plainview, where he led a workshop. The show returns tonight (5/7/10) though May 21. ( Handout) Credit: None/

The musical "13" has nothing to do with triskaidekaphobia - fear of that number - or bad luck. Unless you consider divorce and moving to Appleton, Ind., bad luck.

No, 13 refers to the age at which a Jewish boy becomes a man. The musical by Jason Robert Brown ("Parade," "The Last Five Years"), requiring a cast of 13 actors who can pass for 13, has been all the rage on Long Island this year. From BroadHollow to CM Performing Arts to Airport Playhouse and now twice at Plainview's Cultural Arts Playhouse, a company devoted to young thespians.

The Cultural Arts kids workshopped with Brown before he moved on to his next musical, "Honeymoon in Vegas." Several CAP grads have made it to Broadway, including Al Calderon from "13's" original 2008 cast, Marissa McGowan, now in "A Little Night Music," and Jamie-Lynn Sigler ("Cinderella" and, of course, HBO's "The Sopranos").

So these 12- to 16-year-olds have big shoes to fill in this back-by-popular-demand second run of "13." No one loses his or her sneakers. Least of all Jesse Pimpinella. With his mop-top good looks and sweet voice that sounds as though it hasn't changed, he could pass for a tween idol. (Look out, Justin Bieber!)

Pimpinella plays Evan, a kid who moves to Indiana after his parents separate. He tries to make the best of it by clicking with the popular elite at Dan Quayle Junior High. He wants the coolest guest list for his bar mitzvah party. But that means he can't be seen with the first friends he's made in his new town: Patrice, the girl next door, who, for reasons that are never explained and are nowhere apparent in Brooke Grossman's otherwise engaging performance, is considered a geek; and Archie, the nerdy kid on crutches, played with an ironic sense of humor by Michael Marmann.

To gain favor, Evan gives the star jock (Jacob Levy) advice on getting his first taste of tongue, belonging to a hot cheerleader (Kathleen McDonough). Take her to a scary movie and she'll be all over you, Evan says.

It's just one of many scenes that ring true enough to bring to mind your own junior high horrors. I dare you not to laugh at "Being a Geek," hilariously choreographed by director Bruce Grossman (Brooke's dad) to Laura Mulholland's band, featuring more teens.

Check for pimples after the show.

WHAT "13," music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, book by Dan Elish and Brown

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, 7 p.m. Sunday through next Friday at Cultural Arts Playhouse, 625 Old Country Rd., Plainview

INFO $20; culturalartsplayhouse .com, 516-694-3330

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