Review by JL Trevers
These days, parents in some states are pushing to remove books dealing with sexuality and gender identity from school library shelves.
Complaints from a parent or two are seemingly enough to push school boards into censorship mode. Such parents would certainly object to “Trevor,” at least the original 1994 film, available in grainy video from youtube. They probably wouldn’t like the musical version either, though it has been considerably sanitized.
The film contains some startling images of suicide and that remains a pervasive theme, though the ending is decidedly a happy one. “ Trevor: The Musical,” padded from a 15-minute film to a two-hour show at Stage 42, is cheerful and fluffy for its first act before turning decidedly dark in Act 2.
Though not to worry – the show’s ending is as upbeat as the film’s.
Middle schooler Trevor Nelson (13-year-old Holden Hagelberger) is widely viewed by his classmates as “weird”, with weird in this case meaning gay, even if Trevor and the others are only slowly becoming aware of that. Denied a chance to participate in the school’s annual talent show, he instead offers to choreograph a performance by the 8th grade football team.
Instead of humiliating themselves dancing around in pink tutus, the team will perform a Broadway-style dance number that Trevor will choreograph for them. This, Trevor hopes, will make him popular and bring him closer to Pinky (14-year-old Sammy Dell,) whom he secretly desires.
But this is 1981, long before gay-straight alliances in schools and when same-sex marriage was merely a pipe dream. Kids will be kids, cruel to those who are different, and Trevor’s plans go awry, leaving him humiliated and on the verge of suicide.
The musical may be trying to appeal to a youth audience like those ones who flocked to “Evan Hansen” and “Be More Chill”, but today’s teens are likely to be lost amid the references to Diana Ross, whom Trevor idealizes, John Travolta and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
The music, by Julianne Wick Davis, is fine, though the Diana Ross tunes, among them “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” and “I’m Coming Out”, are the ones that you are likely to leave the theater humming.
Hagelberger is talented and hardworking. Being on stage for nearly the entire two hours is no easy feat, certainly not for a 13 year old. Dell is the other stand out. There are plenty of other kids and a few adults – all get A’s for effort – but none generates much excitement.
The whole show feels a bit amateurish – like a high school play. A good high school play to be sure, but a high school play nonetheless.
It also feels curiously unaffecting. It has its moments, particularly early in the second act, but not enough of them. This is not to say “Trevor” is bad – far from it. It is entertaining and good-hearted. It just lacks the emotional punch we’d expect from a tale of bullying, loneliness, suicide and coming out.