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“Trevor” (1994)
“Trevor" (1994)

‘Trevor’ musical debuts at Writers Theatre

A quirky musical about a gay teen is this summer’s must-see show.

Written by
Kris Vire
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In “Trevor,” the film that won the 1995 Academy Award for best live-action short, the title character is a teenage boy in 1981 who loves Diana Ross, musical theater and the school jock. When Trevor’s diary entries are made public, the rejection he faces leads him to attempt suicide. Did we mention it's a quirky, whimsical comedy?

Now it’s about to be a musical, set to premiere in August at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, Illinois, where it has a Broadway director (Marc Bruni, of Beautiful—The Carole King Musical), enhancement money from commercial producers and hopes for an eventual Broadway bow. It’s a big moment for Writers, which hasn’t before hosted a so-called pre-Broadway production, and for the show’s writers, Julianne Wick Davis and Dan Collins.

“When we watched the film, we [thought], Oh, this is so charming,” says Davis. “The time period is really meaningful to us, and that it was inspiration for the Trevor Project”—the nonprofit for teen-suicide prevention launched by the short’s filmmakers.

Davis and Collins’s highest-profile show to date was also adapted from an LGBTQ-themed film: Southern Comfort, a 2001 documentary about a “chosen family” of transgender people in rural Georgia. The duo— a team since 2006, when they collaborated on their thesis project in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program at NYU—received a 2012 Jonathan Larson Grant as well as a GLAAD Media Award for their version, which premiered Off Off Broadway in 2011.

But Southern Comfort’s source material was a full-length feature with multiple subjects. Trevor offered different challenges. “No matter how many times we watched it, it was still a 16-minute film, and we have to write a full-length musical,” says Davis.

The writers, who were still revising at press time, are finding ways to expand the story. Trevor’s diary-entry narration, for instance, has become direct address to the audience.

For Collins, who grew up in the Chicago suburbs, the Writers production is a homecoming. Trevor is also a story that’s personal to him. “Particularly I think if you grew up gay in the same time period as Trevor did, it almost seems like an archetypal story—the kid who loves the diva and who tragically falls in love with the heterosexual and then has to discover himself and find his way out of there,” he says. “That felt sort of like my story, and I think a lot of people probably feel like it feels like their story.” 

Trevor opens at Writers Theatre on August 9.

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