It Ain’t Easy Being Tween — David and Cameron Review Trevor (for Parterre Box)

DAVID FOX: Is gay without irony even possible? Honestly, Cameron, my thoughts kept coming back to this question throughout Trevor, a new coming-of-age musical that focuses on a high school boy’s struggle to come out. The show, likeable enough, is so high energy, so relentlessly upbeat as to make any criticism feel petty. And there are positive things to say about it. But as Trevor went on, it felt increasingly disconnected from the issues it so clearly wants to tackle. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for showing gay life in a positive light, and more generally, for infusing “difficult” subjects with humor. One of the things I liked about Glee, a show I watched for a few seasons before drifting away, was its cheerfulness, and the suggestion—however pie-in-the-sky it might have been—that jocks and (shall we say) theatre kids could find mutual respect and friendship. But compared to Trevor, Glee—which at least introduced some emotional tension—looks like a Sarah Kane play. A more appropriate comparison is probably Dear Evan Hansen, another musical about high schoolers and their traumas. Long before the movie, I found DEH impossibly maudlin, but Trevor doesn’t get it right either. Instead, looking at the show’s together is a cautionary tale in how difficult it is for musical theater to capture the adolescent experience with a sense of authenticity.

CAMERON KELSALL: Perhaps it’s bad form to admit this as a critic, but I went into Trevor wanting to love it. The purview of so much gay theater still focuses squarely on trauma—consider the recent Tony sweep of The Inheritance—that the story of a queeny pre-teen who loves Diana Ross and lives out loud unapologetically seemed like a welcome tonic. But the end result is dated and tonally unbalanced. (Set in the suburban sprawl of the early 1980s, the musical is based on an Academy Award winning short film from 1994.) You don’t need to feed your audience trauma porn to communicate the difficulties of developing into your full self, but there’s something unsettling about the peppiness of the show, which presents even weighty subjects like self-harm with a smile. And despite the polish and pedigree of the production, helmed by Broadway veterans Marc Bruni and Josh Prince, the material is painfully undistinguished. It’s only been two days since you and I saw a critics’ preview, and I already struggle to recall a single melody from Julianne Wick Davis’ score or a memorable lyric from Dan Collins’ libretto. It’s a good thing they managed to intersperse selections from Miss Ross’s discography to alleviate the monotony…

Click here to read the full post on Parterre Box.

Categories: Criticism, New York, PARTERRE BOX

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