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N. J. teen Jonathan Lengel is the breakout star of ‘13: The Musical’ on Netflix – NJ. com

Evan Goldman is having a rough time adjusting to his parents’ divorce.

What’s more, the particular 12-year-old has to make all new friends after he moves with his mother from New York’s Upper West Side to the suburban Midwest.

It seems so boring in Walkerton, Indiana, that Evan’s new acquaintance, Patrice, “finished YouTube. ”

Thankfully, there are kids wiling to offer a warm welcome — like Patrice’s friend, Archie.

Evan’s brand new neighbor extends a greeting from his wheelchair.

“I know what you’re thinking, ” Archie deadpans. “Yup, I’m faking it. ”

It’s clear they’re going to be friends.

The actor who plays Archie, Woodcliff Lake’s Jonathan Lengel , 16, is the breakout celebrity making their film debut in “ 13: The Musical . ” The Netflix adaptation of the 2008 Broadway show premieres Friday, August 12.

Like Archie, Lengel uses a wheelchair. The particular actor offers congenital muscular dystrophy.

“Growing up, I really didn’t see anyone on film and television like me, ” he tells NJ-NEW JERSEY Advance Media. “There were times where I would go to auditions and there were stairs to get up into the audition room and then we might tell the director — the director would get mad at me.

“I feel like me personally portraying Archie is heading to show everyone else with this problem that this is possible, and that will if you can dream it, you can do it, ” Lengel says. “And I’m living the particular dream. ”

13: The Musical

Jonathan Lengel, at front left, and the cast of “13: The Music. ” Alan Markfield | Netflix

Lengel burst with excitement seeing himself on a Times Square billboard for the movie.

“It’s official, ” this individual said inside a TikTok video marking the milestone. “I made it, I managed to get! ”

The actor, fresh off the New York premiere of “13″ at Netflix’s Paris Theater Monday, is not stopping anytime soon. Long before the particular film’s release, he was back upon set, this time close to home in Warwick, Nyc, after being cast in the upcoming film “ Theater Camp . ”

That film, which stars an ensemble cast including Ben Platt , Amy Sedaris , Molly Gordon , Ayo Edebiri , Alan S. Kim , Noah Galvin , Patti Harrison plus Owen Thiele , is based on Platt, Gordon and Galvin’s 2020 short film “Theater Get away . ” The movie, helmed by Gordon and Nick Lieberman in their feature directorial debuts, follows the staff associated with a struggling upstate Ny theater camp after its founder goes into a coma.

But this week, Lengel gets to introduce themselves to the particular world in grand fashion. His singing, acting plus penchant for comedy — honed at theater get away and regional youth theater productions — all get an impressive showing in “13. ”

The particular Bergen County teen gives credit exactly where credit’s due — “I worked really hard to get here, ” he says.

As Archie, he’s always ready with a quip to cut through the travails of tweens and teens.

“Welcome in order to Walkerton, ” the character tells protagonist Evan, played simply by Westchester’s Eli Golden . “If someone offers to pray with regard to you, let them! ”

In the movie musical, Evan tries to navigate the thorny drama at his middle school while getting local kids to come in order to his bar mitzvah (the town’s Jewish population seems to be limited to their own family). Debra Messing plays his mother, Jessica; and Peter Hermann (”Younger”) is their father, Joel, who becomes persona non grata to Evan right after he meets someone otherwise and separates from Jessica.

Josh Peck (”Drake & Josh, ” “How I Met Your Father”) plays Evan’s rabbi, that attempts to encourage him in order to practice regarding his pub mitzvah along with remote lessons after they move to Jessica’s childhood home in Walkerton. Gabriella Uhl is the sunny Patrice, Archie’s friend, who else gladly gives Evan a primer on their hometown but will be none too happy when he sits at the particular popular kids’ lunch table in school.

And Rhea Perlman plays Evan’s grandmother Ruth, who sums up the town when she announces that she can buy her bras, eggs and tires in one store.

Then you will find the jaunty music numbers about crushes, first kisses and cafeteria cliques.

13: The Musical

From still left: Gabriella Uhl as Patrice, Willow Moss as Zee and Jonathan Lengel as Archie within “13: The Musical. ” Lengel states the experience of filming the particular movie has been “the ultimate theater camping. ” Alan Markfield | Netflix

Before changing to online schooling, which proved to be a better fit intended for Lengel’s growing acting career, he attended The Village School, the private Montessori school in Waldwick, plus Pascack Hills High School in Montvale.

Some of his earliest experiences with performing were in Camp Dragonfly , a theater camp in Ridgewood.

“It had been run by a bunch of older kids which held it within their backyard, ” Lengel says. He nurtured their creativity not just performing and dancing but also working on props, costumes and sets in the run up to the particular big display at the end of each summer. Lengel felt from home.

“I’ve always been musically inclined and I had a strong voice, ” he says. “For myself, there was just nothing quite like performing in front of the live audience and I still sense like that will today. ”

The budding performer found his way there with the help of a hint from his teacher, but it all started with their own habit of impromptu performance.

“When I was within pre-K plus kindergarten, We would usually do all these voice impersonations and songs, ” he says. “It was actually my kindergarten teacher who told my parents to find a theater program inside the area. ”

After the yard theater get away, Lengel got involved with any theatre program he or she could find.

“It wasn’t always easy because my mom and I actually would have to display up from the first day and explain my disability, ” he admits that. “And she’d have in order to stay nearby to help me out whenever I needed it. ”

In Archie, the resident wisecracker associated with “13, ” Lengel discovered a kindred spirit.

Aaron Simon Gross (”The Good Wife”) originated the Broadway character, who furthermore had muscle dystrophy and used crutches. The film role allowed Lengel to show off his comedy skills, which he’s developed in improv troupes.

“He’s a lot like me in the sense that he is very funny and confident, ” Lengel says of Archie. “He also tends to joke regarding his life circumstances a lot, which I normally perform. ”

Tony-winning composer plus lyricist Jason Robert Brown (”The Bridges of Madison County”) wrote the music and lyrics to get both the particular original “13″ musical from 2007 plus the Netflix film, directed by Tamra Davis (”Billy Madison, ” “Half Baked”). Tony winner Robert Horn (”Tootsie”) penned the film script based on the musical’s book, which he co-wrote along with Dan Elish .

The particular 2008 version of “13″ was Ariana Grande ’s professional debut within the initial all-teen Broadway cast and band (she played Charlotte), which also included Elizabeth Gillies (”Dynasty” — the girl played Lucy in the particular Broadway show), who would go on to join Grande within the Nickelodeon series “Victorious. ”

Jonathan Lengel

Jonathan Lengel as Nathan Detroit in a Lower Hudson Valley Youth Theatre plus Chorus production of “Guys and Dolls. ” Courtesy associated with Jared Rosenblum

Producers of “13″ found Lengel through a worldwide casting call.

In their self-taped season casting, he informed them he was born to play Archie. When this individual got the attention of the filmmakers in 2020, he or she didn’t yet have an agent. Lengel received the callback about six months later. Eventually, in what amounted in order to multiple rounds of casting call, he got to sing in front of Brown. It was intimidating to sing the particular lyricist’s words back in order to him, but the result was well worth it.

“He told me personally that he could just experience my joy when I was performing and that felt actually validating, ” Lengel states. “I obtained so emotional after that audition. ”

Brown heaped praise on Lengel in a statement issued via Netflix.

“Jonathan merged therefore completely and beautifully with his personality that this lifts the entire movie to a richer, warmer and much funnier place, ” he said.

Lengel plus the “13″ cast spent summer 2021 filming the movie in Toronto.

“It really was like going to the ultimate movie theater camp, ” he claims. “I has been pinching myself. I didn’t believe it was happening until We finally have got to quarantine in my hotel room. ”

This individual had to keep the life-changing experience under wraps until it was time to promote film production company. In his down time — you know, when he’s not acing auditions and reporting to set — Lengel likes to play The Legend associated with Zelda plus Animal Crossing on his Nintendo Switch.

Jonathan Lengel

Jonathan Lengel playing Santa Claus in a production of the musical “Elf” through Lower Hudson Valley Youngsters Theatre and Chorus. Courtesy of Jared Rosenblum

Mark Lengel sees his son’s movie first appearance as a natural development, given his talent.

“None of us are surprised, ” says Lengel, who works in the particular banking industry. “Jonathan provides always already been a very music, an extremely theatrical child. ”

He recalls when the teen was 2 years old, and inside a family space full of toys, he would fixate on the toy piano. Jonathan was enthralled, and tried playing before he’d learn on the real thing. At 8 months old, he experienced already enrolled in the local Musical Munchkins program, which runs music classes pertaining to babies plus their mother and father.

Doctors told Lengel’s parents he can lose motor skills while a result of has a muscle physique dystrophy. They were used in order to people saying their son wouldn’t end up being able to do things, yet their attitude was constantly, “we’re gonna try it first, ” Mark says. And he consistently surprised them.

Jonathan plays the piano despite having hypermobile joints — he can bend his index finger back far enough where this touches the back of his hand — which may make it difficult.

“He doesn’t shy away from anything, ” their father states. “He states, ‘Well, let me simply try it’ and pretty soon he’s mastering it. ”

Jonathan Lengel

Jonathan Lengel was carrying out characters way back in kindergarten. His instructor suggested the theater program. Megan Cencula

Jonathan’s mother, Cheryl Lengel, is an attorney specializing in advocacy meant for children along with disabilities. Her son has had people reach out to him from your disability community to say they are encouraged by his casting.

Lengel embraces the opportunity in order to further onscreen representation designed for people with disabilities.

“We’re super proud that he is taking this particular on like a platform as well because I actually think it’s important just for other kids to see that will there’s not really a limitation, ” Tag Lengel says of their son, who also sang and played keyboard at the particular Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon in 2020. “They can make it at this level — this individual did it. ”

Jonathan furthermore shared his story as part associated with an MDA campaign.

He or she didn’t observe many actors with disabilities on screen and stage growing up, but that’s changing. In 2019, Ridgewood’s own Ali Stroker became the first actor who utilizes a wheelchair to win a Tony , for the girl towering performance as Ado Annie in the revival of “Oklahoma! ” With his movie musical debut, Lengel joins her among the particular most visible actors along with disabilities.

“Why does everyone think I need help? ” his Archie says with one point in “13, ” again deploying their sharp sense of humor. “I have my personal parking space, my own bathroom, the best ride in town. I am great. ”

Jonathan Lengel

Before he was cast in the Netflix movie, Jonathan Lengel, third from left, starred within a production of “13: The Musical” with Lower Hudson Valley Youth Theatre and Chorus. Thanks to Jared Rosenblum

Jonathan’s dad got in order to visit the set of “Theater Camp, ” Jonathan’s next movie, in Warwick this summer (his mother went with him to Toronto for the purpose of “13″).

“He just has kind of a way about himself, ” he says associated with his son’s big profession moves. “He rolls along with it. He does obtain nervous, yet he does not show this. ”

Jonathan, whose favorite musicals include “The Phantom of the Opera” plus “Hamilton, ” started to notice acting seeing that a career path after performing with the Lower Hudson Valley Youth Theatre and Chorus, a group founded simply by Jared Rosenblum.

“When I met Jared, that’s when I kind of realized that all that I had been doing, that was really becoming more than the hobby because he never really shied away from my impairment and made sure I got everything We needed, ” Lengel states.

The young actor began auditioning for and singing in choruses when this individual was 6, starting on church. Rosenblum met him about two years later. One associated with Lengel’s first roles had been as Santa Claus within the music version of “Elf” for that theater group, based in Rockland Region, New York.

“The audiences just fell within love with him from day one, ” says Rosenblum, director associated with the cinema program and a music plus theater teacher at Deerfield School in Mountainside.

Lengel was crazy, and he or she had a way of getting people’s attention. At the particular time, he or she was walking and not using a wheelchair. If he fell, Rosenblum would discover him get right back upward.

Lengel sang using the youth chorus at Radio City Music Hall along with a Mets game in Citi Field. His roles within the theater program’s shows included Nathan Detroit inside “Guys and Dolls, ” and, within a bit of foreshadowing, one of the children in “13: The Musical, ” though he played another character at the time (Simon/Ritchie).

“I really feel like on Fri the world is going to fall in love with this kid plus it’s not going to stop for your pet, ” Rosenblum says of Lengel’s big Netflix elite. “His life is a movie. He’s living it. ”

As for the film’s ensemble, Lengel’s Archie is usually just 1 player inside a tale associated with young love, jealousy, betrayal and belonging punctuated by peppy song and dance numbers, like one that sees cheerleaders breaking it down on the school field.

He pines for a girl from school named Kendra ( Lindsey Blackwell) , who is already in something of a love triangle (that would be Brett, played simply by JD McCrary ; and Lucy, performed by Frankie McNellis ) — one that doesn’t include him.

“If I actually could possess 10 minutes sitting following to the girl, I would certainly know that I had not really lived my life in vain, ” Archie submits.

Unrequited crushes, the particular pressure in order to please the “in” crowd — “I feel such as that’s likely to resonate along with a lot of people who are usually in middle school (and not in) middle college, ” Lengel says. “Everyone’s gonna find themselves in this. ”

thirteen: The Music ” premieres Friday, August twelve on Netflix .

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Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at [email protected] com plus followed with @AmyKup on Twitter.