NEW YORK -- What began with an Oscar-winning host film has sparked an entire movement. "Trevor," told the story of a gay 13-year-old who is bullied because of his sexuality and then tries to take his own life. The success of the 1994 film inspired the start of the non-profit Trevor Project which aids LGBTQ+ youth in crisis. Now comes "Trevor: The Musical" on Disney+.
Pride Month is the perfect time to watch this movie based on a stage show because it is moving and emotional. It's tough subject matter that's not tough to watch thanks to a pleasant score and a likable cast of young teens. What makes it special is a young teen from Texas who drew on his own, very real experiences to bring Trevor to life.
For Holden William Hagelberger appearing in this story about a boy who has a crush on another boy represents more than just his first, big job. At a special showing of the film in a movie theater on 42nd Street, I asked him: "Did you experience as your character does middle school misery?"
"Yes," Holden replied. "Throughout school, even in elementary school, I was bullied."
Growing up just outside of Houston, Hagelberger was tormented for being different, and starring in "Trevor: The Musical" brought all these bad memories flooding back. "We actually had to stop the first run because I was crying so much. Just having all those thoughts in my head and just all those dark memories. It was tough for me. It was really tough."
The performer, who was just 13 years old himself for this, drew strength from his co-stars-many of whom had similar experiences in middle school. "I got just absolutely tortured," Echo Picone told me. "I got just absolutely tortured. I would come home and cry. I would just say I had no friends."
"For me it was during 6th grade," noted Isabel Medina, who lated appeared on Broadway in Disney's "The Lion King." Sammy Dell, who plays Trevor's crush, observed that at his school, "People didn't feel secure about themselves so they lashed out on me."
The show is set during President Reagan's first term more than 40 years ago, but this still resonates today because so much prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community still exists. Dan Collins, who wrote the script and lyrics for "Trevor: The Musical" put it in perspective for me. "Sometimes we think a lot has changed, and we've come a long way and we have, but I still think a lot of people need the beam of hope and, you know, that message which I hope the show provides."
Hagelberger told me he felt stronger about himself and his future now that he's finished the show. He wants other teens to "Accept who they are and not be afraid of being different." Like his character says: "Even though I don't have muscles or play football or go on dates, I'm worth something!"
"Trevor: The Musical" is streaming now on Disney+ which is owned by the same parent company as this station.