By Aaron Krause
Jodie Langel promises that audiences attending the inaugural production of South Florida’s newest theater company will be “blown away” by the young performers’ talent.
Langel should know. After all, the award-winning actor, educator, and author has performed multiple times on Broadway and regionally (including South Florida). She also founded a musical theater training program titled “Making it on Broadway.”
Now, her Off Glades Theater Company, a nonprofit, non-professional company dedicated to developing young people in the performing arts, will offer the musical 13 on June 23 and 24 at Olympic Heights High School in Boca Raton.
The South Florida resident and New York native, who founded the company, will direct the coming-of-age show which ran on Broadway in 2008 for three months, featuring a rock score by celebrated composer Jason Robert Brown (Parade, The Last Five Years, Songs for a New World.)
Langel said that when she and her 13-year-old daughter, Leah Steiner, watched 13 on Netflix, she (Langel) fell in love with the show’s music and themes.
“I said, ‘Someone’s got to do this show,’” Langel said. “What is striking about 13 is that it conveys emotions and insecurities that not only teenagers relate to – but that everyone does. At its core, it’s a show about the raw vulnerability that comes with being true to yourself – something that resonates with people of all ages.”
In fact, the show is a “grown-up story about dealing with change and learning that becoming who you want to be starts with discovering who you are,” reads a press release promoting the production.
When 13-year-old Evan Goldman moves from New York City to Indiana, he must escape rumors and blackmail if he hopes to make friends and find happiness at his new school. Altogether, Evan must deal with academics, his parents’ divorce, his upcoming bar mitzvah, and a life-changing move.
“They’re all super excited to start,” Langel said about her 19 triple-threat cast members.
“They all love the show so much,” Langel added. “A lot of them know the score inside and out.”
More than 60 youngsters auditioned. Ultimately, Langel cast 19 performers ranging in age from 12 to 18.
Cast members include Leah, who will portray Patrice, a shy, intelligent bookworm and a grounded, kind girl who develops a crush on Evan.
Leah said she likes the storytelling in 13, which, she added, shows what it is like to be a teenager.
How does it feel to receive direction from her mom?
“She’s an amazing person to be able to talk to and take advice from,” the teenager said. “I’m just so lucky to have a mom like her.”
Fellow cast member Victoria Johnson, 16, portrays Lucy. She is the “mean girl,” in the young performer’s words.
Specifically, Lucy is a smart, manipulative cheerleader who secretly desires her friend Kendra’s boyfriend, Brett.
“Jody’s amazing, Jody’s a superstar,” Victoria said. “She’s awesome.”
What makes her awesome?
Langel, in addition to being a “great teacher,” “cares about her students and cares about how they feel,” said the teenager, who has studied with Langel for six years.
It’s another chapter for Langel who has an extensive resume.
South Florida audiences have seen Langel as lead character Donna in The Wick Theater’s and Actors’ Playhouse’s productions of Mama Mia. In addition, Langel portrayed lead character Diana in Actors’ Playhouse’s production of Next to Normal. For her work as Diana, Langel received the Silver Palm and Broadway World Awards, as well as a Carbonell Award nomination. Farther north, Langel starred in Maltz Jupiter Theater’s productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Evita.
On Broadway, Langel appeared in Les Misérables twice, once as Cosette and another time as Eponine. In addition, in Broadway touring productions, Langel portrayed Grizabella in Cats, and the narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Also, on a pre-Broadway tour, Langel appeared as Bertrande in Martin Guerre.
Off Broadway, Langel performed in I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change for two years, and was a soloist at Carnegie Hall in Leonard Bernstein’s Mass. Langel holds the distinction of being the youngest actor to portray Grizabella.
In addition to Broadway, Off Broadway, and touring Broadway productions, Langel has appeared at regional theaters across the country, and has also acted on television. Specifically, you may have seen her in the television show, Rescue Me, in which she co-starred.
Langel has also directed productions, performed in concerts, and co-authored the book “Making It on Broadway.” Langel is the founder and CEO of the training program with the same title.
Making It on Broadway (www.makingitonbroadway.net), is a “world-renowned musical theater training program where students explore the realities of what it means to be a Broadway professional,” according to an online description.
Langel estimated that she teaches 50-60 students in her studio, ranging in age from 7 to 60. Not all of 13’s cast members are her students. In fact, she had never met some of them until they auditioned for Off Glades Theater Company’s production.
Langel said that for now, Off Glades will remain dedicated to developing young people in the performing arts. However, Langel is hoping to turn Off Glades into a professional company as early as next year. In fact, Langel said she wants audiences to walk away from Off Glades’ shows saying, “I can’t wait to see what they do next.”
Langel received a BFA in acting from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and her MFA from U.C.L.A. in Southern California. Actually, Langel received her masters in acting years after she performed on Broadway. As a matter of fact, since she was among the oldest students, some of her classmates called her “Grandma.”
Langel said as a youngster, she performed in community theater productions.
“I definitely received a lot of support,” she said.
In college, she learned from a “great voice teacher” named Don Johnston (not to be confused with the actor from Miami Vice.). He “pushed her a lot” and made her train classically.
Now, Langel is teaching and mentoring a new generation of performers. Before the 13 production, some cast members will appear on WPTV’s “A Shining Light” on June 6. While on TV, they will sing “Getting Ready.”
Performers includes Kane Quiles as Evan, Leah Steiner as Patrice, Sebastian Baroulette as Brett, Victoria Johnson as Lucy, Jonathan Jacknow as Archie, Eddie Albeio as Malcolm, Anthony Cirisano as Eddie, Aliyah Harrow as Kendra, Sofia Gianetti as Molly, Tommy Cook as Richie, Miranda Ferreira as Charlotte, Mia Spector as Cassie, and Mateo Lepore as Simon. The cast also includes Gabriella Roache, Mina Howard, Kylie Staub, Emma Nevico, Ella Valente, and Alisa Voloshina.
Michael Ursua is the production’s musical director; the Assistant Director is Nicole Roach, and Brittany Blouin will serve as the production’s Stage Manager.
The Off Glades Theatre Company’s production of 13 will include 7:30 p.m. performances on June 23 and 24 at Olympic Heights High School, 20101 Lyons Road in Boca Raton. Tickets are on sale and cost $50. Online at https://offglades.booktix.com, or by calling (310) 497-5964.