Valley Youth Theatre’s production of the musical 13 is playing until Saturday evening at Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, and two Ahwatukee Foothills teenagers are appearing in the show, which is making its Arizona premier.

Josh Hedeby, a freshman at Desert Vista High School, plays the lead character, Evan, and Richard Pomraning, who attends Arizona School for the Arts, plays a kid from New York City and a dancing rabbi in the rock musical.

“It’s about being 13 and growing up, and trying to find out who you are,” Pomraning said.

In preparation for the show, the performers participated in a workshop with Jason Robert Brown, who wrote and composed the show.

“It was nice to work with him because there were some parts that we were confused about, and he told us exactly what he was looking for,” Hedeby said. “I was nervous on opening night because he was in the audience, but when the curtain went up and I sang the opening lines it felt natural.”

During the rehearsal process, Brown worked with the performers to help them improve their craft.

“He was very professional and straightforward,” Pomraning said. “You can get used to people telling you you’re good, but it was great to be critiqued and improve.”

The high energy rock opera 13 has a lot of music. Throughout the show’s run VYT has given performances for school audiences during the day.

“It’s funny performing for your peers because they react in a way that adult audiences won’t,” Hedeby said. “They cheer a lot, and they don’t hold back.”

Performances during the day mean that the cast members have had to miss school, but according to Pomraning, VYT encourages them to put their school work ahead of performing.

“I always try to get my school work done before I come to the theater, but if we’re overwhelmed we can tell VYT and they will help us find time for our homework,” Pomraning said.

Todd Tillett, stage manager for 13, said performing with VYT is a learning experience the student performers will benefit from.

“This show is a great introduction to professional theater, as our staff, choreographer and director are all very professional,” Tillett said. “Aside from that, the social experience has given the kids friends they will keep forever.”

The musical 13 is playing at the Herberger Theater Center this Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. The Herberger is at 222 E. Monroe St. For more information on show times and ticket prices, visit www.herbergertheater.org.

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