‘Trevor the Musical’ editorial staff reveal their journey to the theater stage


The 1994 Oscar-winning short “Trevor” is now a live musical. For those who haven’t seen the film, it tells the story of a flamboyant 13-year-old boy in 1981 who is obsessed with Diana Ross. He falls in love with his classmate Pinky Faraday, but things quickly head south, culminating in a touching moment where Trevor lip-syncs “Endless Love” and attempts to kill himself via an aspirin overdose. Perhaps better known than the film itself is its first spin-off: The Trevor Project, a 24/7 crisis and suicide prevention hotline for LGBTQ youth.

I sat down for a lively Skype session with the show’s writers Julianne Wicks Davis (music) and Dan Collins (book and lyrics). Their other credits include “Southern Comfort”, “Wood”, “Our Lady of the Viaduct” and “Time to Kill”. During our conversation, the creative duo were backstage at Chicago’s Writers Theater, where the show was in workshop just before it opened. I sat down a few blocks from where the show will hopefully land one day – Broadway.

At the head of the creation of

How did you first get involved in the project and have you seen the film before?

Julianne Wicks Davis: I think I saw the movie a long time ago, but we got involved because the producers were looking for a new team of writers. We went through several audition trials where we wrote some songs and then finally presented three songs to the producers, to Peggy [Rajski], the director of the film, and James Lescene, the screenwriter of the film, and they decided to come with us.

You’ve been working together for a while now. Can you tell me how it started and how your process evolved as a team?

Dan Collins: We met in the Graduate Program in Musical Drama Writing at Tisch / NYU. I moved from the Chicago area.

Wicks Davis: And I moved from Texas.

Collins: At Tisch, you’re paired with different people in the class throughout the first year, so you sort of find who you click with. In your second year you write a dissertation which is a 90 minute presentation – Julianne and I were fortunate enough to work on ours together and fell in love as a writer.

Wicks Davis: We’ve been writing together for 11 years now.

Based on the short film

I imagine there were some unique challenges in adapting a short film into a full musical. Can you talk about it a bit?

Collins: The main challenge was to try to stay true to that spirit while creating a unique show with its own spirit as well, so we looked for specific song moments in the show and in the movie, and that’s how we got it. started to develop the story.

I saw the great performance of “Stranger” by Josh Colley on your Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/trevorthemusical/). It is such a touching number. Where does this song fit?

Collins: It’s late in the second act right before Trevor takes the pills. He goes back to school and receives a note from Pinky that says, “You are a weak person and you probably don’t deserve to live.” Coming out is when the song’s moment occurs.

A scene from

And that brings me to my next question: “Endless Love” and the music of Diana Ross – how do you treat her songs compared to the originals?

Wicks Davis: The score is mostly original, but incorporates those Diana Ross moments where it’s really important for the storytelling. I think five songs are his. Sometimes we just use bits and pieces of it, just kind of a quote, but they’ll sound exactly like the iconic recording. And then the rest of the score is an original material which is a kind of contemporary musical theater. Trevor has this very rich fantasy life where he breaks into all these moments in his head.

It seems that “Stranger” hits that note perfectly. As for Diana on stage, have I seen a photo where she is projected onto a canvas?

Collins: There is an actress who plays Diana Ross. She sort of functions as his spirit, hope, and grief at pivotal moments in history. The set has levels, so it is usually raised in a space different from it. We never wanted to have a dialogue between them, but we have this musical relationship through movement and using his songs to tell the story of Trevor’s relationship with himself.

Getting back to the process, you are dealing with a gay boy on the verge of puberty, which could be a tricky business. How do you deal with that in terms of audience and how do you deal with the cast since they are on the verge of breaking their voice?

Wicks Davis: I will first answer the casting question. It is a delicate thing. The decision to make Trevor an unchanged voice was really smart, because there’s something about this youngster, who is on the verge of his sexual discovery, playing that role. Having said that, it’s really difficult because we weren’t able to use the youngsters that we used in the development phases of the series. Their voices change and they grow. But we think it’s so important to have that age represented in that role, and for all the roles that we have.

Collins: Regarding the first part of your question, the producers always believed strongly in the message of the film and wanted it to be shown in the musical, so we never had a challenge as to how much we wanted to push the storytelling.

Wicks Davis: This is happening during college so everyone knows how miserable this experience can be. Trevor is an outsider, then he’s ostracized by school, and I think people can relate to that. And as far as his homosexuality is concerned, I have the impression that the world has opened up a little more to that.

Collins: One of the things that has forced us to be creative is that there are times in the storytelling where we address her sexual arousal and her feelings towards another boy. If they were 18 year olds, we could just explore that as we wanted. But because there are issues with the sexuality – both gay and straight – of these characters, we sometimes had to be creative, a little more abstract than what we would be if we were writing a story about adults.

Wicks Davis: And I think we’re always going to run into audiences that aren’t comfortable with this topic and we’re pretty much okay with it. [All laugh.] Because we think we can eventually reach out to someone and change the way they look at someone who is different from them.

Trevor (left) grapples with being gay and having a crush on a classmate in the new musical that inspired The Trevor Project.

He’s sort of an iconic character because of Project Trevor. I wonder if you ever feel responsible for representing him.

Both: Yes!

There is a huge hit with a foreigner in New York right now – “Dear Evan Hansen.” Do you feel like there’s a movement towards underdog shows these days and Trevor might be the right time for it?

Wicks Davis: I think there’s this recent rise in tolerance that has kind of made people more aware of the underdog and the importance for us of taking care of them. And with the rise of anti-LGBTQ things happening in the world right now, there are people who want to protect them, who very strongly believe that people should be who they are. I think they are all coming together like they hadn’t done before. … that tells me it’s the right time for our show.

So you are in Chicago right now. What’s the next step in bringing this show to posh Broadway?

Wicks Davis: This is the first manufacture. We’ve never seen it move until now, which is incredibly exciting. Today we took a look at the whole show, and we all think we need to put it in front of an audience. Of course, you want a great future on Broadway. We would not refuse this. We just hope this production is well received and people love it. And we also think the post is important enough that a lot of people need to see the show. We know that the producers really believe in it and are very positive about the future of the series.

Sitting at a table during the first rehearsal of


“Trevor,” the short was theatrically released along with Mark Christopher’s award-winning short “Alkali, Iowa,” as part of Boys Life II, Strand Releasing, 1996. See “Trevor” at https: // www. Youtube. com / watch? v = CO5uKgTETSI, and “Alkali, Iowa” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdcP47O4LtU.


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