TREVOR - Off-Broadway
If there was a television After-School-Special musical about a young teen coming out gay, TREVOR might be it; the new Off-Broadway musical has a straightforward melodramatic plot. Its heart is in the right place, but sadly it doesn't do justice to its topic. And, while It observes all the conventions of a traditional two-act Broadway musical, it never elicits the in-the-gut feelings really good musicals do.
TREVOR is based on a short film that won an Oscar in 1995 and led to The Trevor Project, a national LGBTQ+ crisis intervention and suicide prevention group. The story is set in 1981 at a junior high school. Thirteen-year old Trevor (Holden William Hagelberger) is “different” from the other kids, obsessed with musical theater and Diana Ross. His parents are obsessed with the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. His best friend Walter (Aryan Simhardi) is obsessed with pictures of female models in an underwear catalogue, but Trevor is more interested in the male models. At school, he develops a crush on Pinky (Sammy Dell), the dreamy captain of the eighth-grade football team. He fakes an attraction to a girl classmate, Cathy (Alyssa Emily Marvin) who is really attracted to Pinky. When Trevor’s personal journal, which reveals his boycrush on Pinky, is stolen and passed around the school, he’s humiliated, and attempts suicide (with aspirin.) All the while, this plotting is punctuated by visits of an imaginary Diana Ross (Yasmeen Sulieman) who performs the diva’s megahits from the late 1970s and 80s, like “Upside Down,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Endless Love,” that broadly relate to events in Trevor’s journey of sexual identity.
The book and lyrics by Dan Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis are okay, sounding rather Broadway generic, without having either the lyrical gravitas or motific heft that characterize shows dealing with teenage angst like “Dear Evan Hansen '' or “Fun Home”. (The team had more success with “Southern Comfort”, a heart-wrenching tale about transgendered adults in Georgia, that premiered on the regional theater circuit a few years ago.) Still there are two original numbers that satisfy: “One of These Days”, a sweet song in which Trevor tries to pierce Pinky’s jock mentality by wondering what they will be like ten years forward, and “Can’t Wait”, an ensemble number that expresses the adolescent urgency of growing up. But, alas, all the original songs pale in comparison to Ross’s solo Top Ten hits, emblazoned in our pop-culture memory and expertly performed by Sulieman without a trace of camp. Orchestrations from the seven-piece off stage band are unobtrusive.
Josh Prince’s choreography veers from snappy hip hop- inspired footwork (not quite 1981 but so what?) and a sparkly, Las Vegas/ Tommy Tune routine, “One/Two”, wherein Trevor directs the football team in an aspirational, big Broadway number for the school’s annual talent show.
Donyale Werle’s rather ordinary junior high-school set, replete with the cliched trophy case, doubles from school settings - classrooms, gym, auditorium - to Trevor’s bedroom (decorated with Diana Ross posters) which slides out from the stage’s partitioned backdrop.
The entire effort is anchored by an amazing Holden William Hagelberger as title character. Aside from the Ross numbers, he’s on, performing non-stop (except for an intermission), for 2 hours, 15 minutes, without a trace of self-doubt. This new talent is totally in control of his character, which ironically contradicts the character he plays. Hagelberger’s best dramatic moments come - in the play’s best written scene - with a hospital volunteer (played with perfect timing by Aaron Alcaraz) who counsels Trevor, recovering from his suicide attempt, about being gay.
The show then segways to a recovered Trevor back at school, apparently accepting of being gay. Enter Diana in disco glory to sing - you guessed it - “I’m Coming Out.”