Despite his Reagan-obsessed parents and goony boys at school, Trevor appears to be happy with his life with Ross (Yasmeen) and his circle if genuine outcasts. Walter (Aryan Simhadri) may show him the wrong kind of porn (women wearing lingerie on a farm), and Cathy (Alyssa Emily Marvin) may misunderstand his intentions (she can’t wait to kiss him despite her braces), but they tolerate his idiosyncrasies. Cathy has “watched every Tony Awards with him since 1976.”
Even the school’s dim heartthrob, a jock named Pinky (Sammy Dell), befriends him, encouraging Trevor to choreograph a Tommy Tune-like dance routine for the football team at the annual talent show. Josh Prince’s choreography finds a delicate middle ground between unbelievably slick and unappealingly awkward. And though the first act ends with the implosion of this spectacle — the team performs a different routine instead — the stakes feel dangerously low until it’s almost too late to revive them.
What went wrong? This material could have been turned into a musical, but that would have been foolish. Musicals are different from prose fiction and naturalistic movies in that they allow everyone to see the story. Tonal subtleties delivered through Trevor’s eyes in the film cannot be contained that way onstage, and so a lot of the charming naïveté of the original becomes vague and clammy in Dan Collins’s book.
The songs, with lyrics by Collins and music by Julianne Wick Davis, don’t do much better; though professional, they are mostly upbeat and synthetic regardless of the moment, marking time instead of making points. They also face an unfair fight against the Ross catalog, including excerpts from hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Upside Down,” “It’s My Turn,” “Endless Love” and, inevitably, “I’m Coming Out.”
The exceptions to the score’s blandness are telling. A number in which Pinky teaches Trevor to play H-O-R-S-E in gym class — including the double-edged instruction “you don’t want to spell it out” — is characterful, specific and sweet. “One of These Days” has Trevor returning the favor, teaching Pinky to imagine what he might be like in 10 years. Later the song returns, poignantly, after Trevor swallows “way too many aspirin” and winds up in the hospital.
Only in these moments, when the musical accepts its limitations, does it come to life. The scene between Trevor (a gay man) and a candy-striper, who is obviously old enough to have gone through the tunnels of adolescence is as honest as it gets.
Source: NY Times