November 10, 2021
Off-Broadway Review: 'Trevor: The Musical'
Matthew Wexler READ TIME: 3 MIN.
In today's current queer landscape, we have National Coming Out Day, Spirit Day, LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations all year long, and a slew of affirming events and organizations committed to queer causes. But scroll the clock back to 1981, the setting for the full-hearted new musical "Trevor: The Musical," and one effervescent teen simply has Diana Ross.
For young viewers of Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis's new musical that originally premiered at Chicago's Writers Theatre and now opens Off-Broadway at Stage 42, context is an essential benchmark for the show's success. "Trevor" manages to capture a sweet and awkward middle school innocence then pivots to the dark reality many queer youth are forced to confront.
Based on the 1994 Academy Award-winning film of the same name, Trevor (Holden William Hagelberger) loves Diana Ross (Yasmeen Sulieman) and embraces his ever-so-fabulous, flamboyant best self. But just as he begins to realize that his feelings for his popular classmate Pinky (Sammy Dell) might be more than platonic, a turn of events puts his declaration in the public eye. And when you're a teenager, that's never a good thing.
Director Marc Bruni and choreographer Josh Prince, who collaborated on "Beautiful: The Carol King Musical," keep "Trevor" moving at a swift pace, navigating between home, school, the local ice cream shop and "The Quality Courts" – an abandoned construction zone where the kids go to make out. ("It would be an incredible place to stage 'West Side Story.' " quips Trevor, "But aside from that, I'm not really sure why anyone would find it romantic.") Donyale Werle's bi-level set and Peter Kaczorowski's lighting support the fluid transitions, but it's Mara Blumenfeld's 80s costumes that dial up the retro nostalgia.
Bruni keeps the young cast (along with adults Sally Wilfert and Jarrod Zimmerman beautifully specific in multiple roles and Aaron Alcaraz as the candy striper who offers Trevor a glimmer of hope) in check, deflecting any anachronistic mannerisms acquired by today's Gen Z. Their adolescent quirkiness keeps Trevor's story rooted in the moment, despite its period time-stamp. Prince also plays to their strengths, resisting the urge to over-choreograph, instead relying on amplified pedestrian movement and the occasional fantasy production number "One/Two," in which Trevor's talent show choreography magically comes to life.
Hagelberger makes a commendable Off-Broadway debut as the show's central character, exuding a natural, effervescent energy that appropriately diminishes as Trevor questions his identity amid school bullies. However, to think that "Trevor" is a museum piece – a distant reflection of the LGBTQ+ community's long road to equality – is to ignore the harsh reality that many of today's queer youth face.
According to The Trevor Project and the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, with LGBTQ+ youth being four times more likely to seriously consider suicide, to make a suicide plan, and to attempt suicide than their peers.
"Trevor: The Musical" uses the art form of musical theater, which for generations has proven a safe and celebratory haven for those who have felt othered by society. By doing so, it lifts our spirits and claims its space among few and far between works that tell the story of LGBTQ+ youth.
422 West 42nd Street, NYC