Thursday, August 24, 2017

REVIEW of the new musical "Trevor," running at Writers Theatre in Glencoe through September 17th

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar: 

Writers Theatre presents the World Premiere of
Book and Lyrics by Dan Collins
Music by Julianne Wick Davis

All production photos by Michael Brosilow

Based on the Academy Award-winning film Trevor
Orchestrations by Greg Pliska
Music Direction by Matt Deitchman
Choreography by Josh Prince
Directed by Marc Bruni

August 9 – September 17, 2017

By Catherine Hellmann. 

**As I'm recovering from major knee surgery, Cath Hellmann will be guest reviewing for me throughout August. Cath is a lifelong theatre lover, on stage, directing, and in the audience. She's an English teacher, mom of three, and elated to be living in Chicago again, after a 10 year stint in the wilds of rural Michigan near Kalamazoo. **

      Trevor is ahead of his time. The year is 1981, and 13-year-old Trevor is experiencing all the usual angst of adolescence, trying to fit in, be accepted at school, and appear to be a typical teen to his peers while he suspects he is quite different from other kids. He frequently channels a fantasy life inspired by his idol, Diana Ross, as he struggles with his sexuality and his identity in a world not prepared yet for gay teens. 

      "Trevor" is a brand-new musical premiering at Writers Theatre in Glencoe. The inspiration came from a short film by the same name which won an Academy Award for  Best Live Action Short in 1994. The movie also inspired The Trevor Project which is "the only accredited crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization focused on saving young LGBTQ lives.," citing the  press release. "Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24; the rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth," according to The Trevor Project. After being humiliated at school, the title character does begin to believe the world may be a better place without him in it. 

       Such a serious topic could mislead potential audience members into being wary of the show being a downer. But "Trevor" is so far removed from that: Uplifting, life-affirming, inspiring, charming, and downright laugh-out-loud funny. The script and lyrics by Dan Collins with music by Julianne Wick Davis are delightful and witty. One of the songs is called "Weird," where Trevor cheerfully acknowledges, "In another ten years, I'll be even weirder!" 

       The choreography by Josh Prince is creative, whether it involves the students with their desks in the classroom or Trevor throwing his heart into rehearsing with the football team for a number in the school talent show. Trevor admits that he is "more of a performer than an athlete." The ensemble cast is notable throughout but especially here in Trevor's fantasy scene where he imagines how incredible his choreography could be for the athletes; some of the best and most hilarious numbers in the show feature Trevor's wildly active imagination. Donyale Werle's clever set design also assists in a few fun surprises and humor. 

       Eli Tokash is already a Broadway and touring veteran at age 14. In the title role, he is astounding in his singing and acting as Trevor. He is riveting to watch and displays a maturity in his performance beyond his years. My theater companion had an older gentleman sitting next to her who proudly told us at intermission that the boy playing Trevor is his grandson. During the scene when Trevor is attempting to end his life (sorry for the spoiler, but I already told you the mission of the Trevor Project!), we heard this sweet grandfather crying. My friend said she debated the awkwardness of patting his hand or putting her arm around him...

       Other notable performances are the stunning Salisha Thomas as Diana Ross and Jarrod Zimmerman as Father Joe in a cringe-worthy but hysterical scene when he explains the birds and the bees to Trevor at the Tastee Freez. Equally hideous but true-to-life are Mara Blumenfeld's costumes of lots of striped knit shirts and sweaters. (Ugh. What were we thinking?) Matthew Uzarrraga plays Trevor's best friend who likes to examine his own sperm under a microscope. His questioning of Trevor's interest in girls, or lack thereof, provides the first indication that Trevor is a little different from others. 

       Writers Theatre is to be commended for taking on this ambitious labor of love with U Rock Theatricals. Director Marc Bruni, who directed "Beautiful:The Carole King Musical," has assembled a top- notch creative team of artists, crew, and performers. Writers Theatre's new home in Glencoe is gorgeous. If you haven't been there because you think it's too far from the city, it is certainly worth the trip. "Trevor" is a powerful, riveting, funny show on a serious topic. You can brag you saw the premiere in the Chicago production. 

       Although things are better for gay teens, it is still a struggle, as noted by The Trevor Project. When I was in high school, same era as this show, it was highly unusual for a young person to admit to being homosexual. Oh, we had our suspicions, and assumed they were just "wimpy" or "artistic" like Trevor. Now I am astounded how many of my teenagers' classmates say they are gay or bisexual, and I am like,"Oh, another one?" What's really cool is how accepting my children are of differences. It does not phase them; they explain the new terminology to me. The coming out of teens has become so accepted. It is progress at a time when distrust of The Other is having a new surge. As Marc Bruni explains,"I hope there will be a time where the story of 'Trevor' will feel like yesterday's news."

For show times, further information and ticket purchasing links click here.

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