by Brian Scott Lipton . . .
Hurricane season is basically done, earthquakes are basically unheard of in the Big Apple, and blizzards rarely hit New York in November. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be shaken by a force of nature. In this case, it’s named Holden William Hagelberger, and he’s the adolescent storm of energy and charisma who provides the beating heart of the new musical Trevor, now at Stage 42.
Adapted and greatly expanded from the Oscar-winning 23-minute short film of the same name, this 2 ¼-hour musical about teen bullying and accepting one’s homosexuality is much bouncier and more colorful than its darker predecessor, thanks largely to Marc Bruni’s lighthearted direction, Josh Prince’s energetic choreography and Dan Collins’ and Julianne Wick Davis’ mostly springy score.
Set in an unnamed suburban town in 1981 (the excellent set is by Tony Award winner Donyale Werle and the spot-on costumes are by Mara Blumenfeld), the work focuses on Trevor (played by Hagelberger), a high-spirited middle school student who slowly comes to understand that he’s gay.
Today, his fascination with – in no particular order — male farmers in their underwear; singer Diana Ross (superbly embodied by Yasmeen Sulieman), who stunningly performs snippets of Ross’ greatest hits throughout the show, acting as sort of a Greek chorus, and, above all, the sweet-natured super-jock Pinky Farraday (a perfectly cast Sammy Dell) would probably make Trevor instantly realizes he’s more than just “different.” But as the musical semi-subtly reminds us, 30 years ago, Trevor’s confusion has a lot to do with the society that surrounds him.
His Reagan-loving parents (a sweet if underused Sally Wilfert and Jarrod Zimmerman, who also plays a rather unhelpful priest) simply don’t have the words to communicate to their son what they clearly know. Trevor’s best friends Walter (Aryan Simhardri) and Cathy (an incredibly funny Alyssa Emily Marvin) are basically clueless, and even the classmates who cruelly steal Trevor’s notebook – thereby exposing the truth – may not fully understand the implications of their actions.
Still, the musical’s somewhat breezy tone makes the inclusion of almost-unthinkable act that was the film’s raison d’etre – and which led to the founding of the Trevor Project — feel slightly inconsistent with what’s come before. Fortunately, Hagelberger handles this difficult dramatic turn with the same aplomb that he displays throughout the whole show, and a pivotal scene is aided immeasurably by the performance of the wonderful Aaron Alcaraz as sympathetic candy-striper Jack. (The two bring real pathos to one of the score’s better songs, “One of These Days.”)
Ultimately, Trevor remains, for better and worse, more Mean Girls than Dear Evan Hansen. But like both of those shows, it carries a timely and important message about self-acceptance.
Trevor at Stage 42, 442 West 42nd Street, NYC www.TheTrevorProject.org
Photos: Joan Marcus