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Trevor: The Musical

Theatre Review by Howard Miller - November 10, 2021

Yasmeen Sulieman and
Holden William Hagelberger

Photo by Joan Marcus
Think for a moment about that time in your life when you were 12-14 years old and you were a middle school or junior high student. If your mind conjures up nothing but happy days, then perhaps Trevor: The Musical is not for you. But if you remember your young adolescent years as a physical, emotional, and social roller coaster ride, or if there is a child in your life who is going through a rough patch (or who could stand to learn something about empathy), then do yourself and them a favor by heading out to Stage 42, where this warm-hearted and engaging musical opened tonight.

Other than coping with the tsunami that is puberty, probably the most important developmental task of the middle-school years is figuring out your place in the pecking order among your peers. Trevor: The Musical captures both of these life-shaping events with great understanding and a gentle sense of humor through the eyes of its title character as he maneuvers his way through Lakeview Junior High School in 1981, marked by the volatility of friendships, peer pressure, and a crush on another boy.

Trevor's story has been around for a while. The musical is based on an Oscar-winning 1994 short film, also titled Trevor, which a short time later morphed into The Trevor Project, a crisis intervention and suicide prevention program to support struggling LGBTQ youth. Trevor: The Musical does dip a toe into the sadder, darker side of things, and Trevor himself definitely has the stuffing knocked out of him, but this is a show that is considerably more uplifting than it is disturbing.

When we first meet Trevor, played with a perfect blend of dorkiness and endearing charm by 13-year-old Holden William Hagelberger, he exudes so much self-assuredness that it is easy to fall under his spell. In his mind, he is the ultimate theater kid, expecting in ten years to be a wildly popular performer, choreographer, and impresario. And while his well-meaning parents (Sally Wilfert and Jarrod Zimmerman) seem to Trevor as benign if clueless entities, he is blessed to have as his imagined spirit guide the singer Diana Ross (a terrific Yasmeen Sulieman), who appears with some regularity in one of Mara Blumenfeld's many Vegas-ready costumes, always at hand to boost Trevor's confidence through snippets of the performer's actual songs.

Nothing seems to faze Trevor, not even when he is informed that his one-person reenactment of scenes from Fame did not make the cut for the all-important school talent show. His Plan B is to secretly work with the boys' football team to choreograph their closing number as a big Broadway-style showcase. To that end, he enlists the aid of popular jock Pinky (Sammy Dell). Pinky goes along because he absolutely does not want to be seen flouncing around in a pink tutu with his teammates in the traditional ending to the talent show. Ultimately, Trevor confuses Pinky's kindness toward him for something more, which is when everything spirals downward and Trevor is made to feel isolated and alone.

Bookwriter and lyricist Dan Collins has done a masterful job of capturing the ups and downs of early adolescence, and composer Julianne Wick Davis has produced an appealing score that succeeds by avoiding the hyped-up ruffles and flourishes that often plague shows about teen characters. Trevor: The Musical, under Marc Bruni's direction, is ideally cast with young performers who present just the right amount of talent, with no showing off in acting, singing, or dancing to Josh Prince's choreography (except as appropriate in some fantasy sequences); in short, they seem to be very much like the characters they are portraying. It is this kind of attention to authenticity that makes this a very special musical about a terrific young man who is sure to turn out just fine.

Trevor: The Musical
Stage 42 422 West 42nd Street, New York NY
Tickets and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge.coma