‘Trevor: The Musical’: How the Cast and Crew Reunited for One Day to Capture the Production for Disney+

“It’s very meaningful that this story can be seen in so many places,” director Marc Bruni told TheWrap

In January, the cast and crew of “Trevor: The Musical” reunited at Stage 42 in New York City about four weeks after the show ended its off-Broadway run to freeze the production in time. With eight cameras positioned around the theater, they filmed the show, which is now streaming on Disney+.

“It’s very meaningful that this story can be seen in so many places where kids are going through something that’s akin to what Trevor is going through and will be able to be moved and hopefully inspired by his story,” Marc Bruni, who directed the stage show, told TheWrap.

“Trevor: The Musical” tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who, after an embarrassing incident at school, must find the courage to embark on a journey of self-discovery that includes determining what it means to be a queer teenager. The musical is based on the 1995 Academy Award-winning short film “Trevor,” which ultimately inspired the nonprofit organization The Trevor Project.

Tasked with bringing Trevor to life was Holden Hagelberger, a teen from Sugarland, Texas, who told TheWrap that sharing the character with the world has been a gratifying experience for him.  He hopes viewers who can catch the filmed version on Disney+ will connect with Trevor in all the ways that he has. 

“I hope it reaches audiences that can definitely relate to Trevor and they can know from Trevor’s story that people go through the same thing and it’s okay,” Hagelberger said. “I was bullied throughout school and seeing the stuff in the script and having to get into that character, it was tough because it brought back memories from when I was in school. It took a lot to get into the character and to play it for audiences.”

Below, Bruni breaks down more about the process of bringing the musical from stage to screen for Disney+.

How do you prepare for your stage show to be filmed for the small screen?

We closed our show at Stage 42 in the middle of December, and the producers were able to make this deal with RadicalMedia to do a film capture of the stage production in January. We were able to shoot the entire thing in one day. We did a run through the afternoon and a run through in the evening, and the director of the film, Robin Abrams, brought eight cameras into the theater and shot it from eight angles. Then, a lot of the job was in the editing room to try to take to take this stage piece, which is basically what people would have seen at Stage 42 during the run, but edited together in such a way that allows for a good deal of close ups — which I think puts the humanity of these characters really front and center. Especially Holden, who is this extraordinary 13-year-old actor who’s playing the lead. And his performance really works in close up, and you get to care about him and go on his journey with him as he explores his world in 1981. I think the film version really gives an audience an even better experience than they would have gotten in the theater.

So, what is the collaboration process like between you and the film director?

Well, Robin Abrams basically did a draft of what cameras should capture what [angle], and then she and I talked on the day about the story and what needed to be captured and making sure that we’d have this shot or that shot, because ultimately it’s just about getting the shot so that later on in the editing process, if you want something, you have that available. I mean, it’s just basically doing all the angles at once. With an eight camera shoot, you just capture all of your coverage at the same time without being able to go back and [check the footage]. She’s like an air-traffic controller in terms of getting these cameras to make sure that they’re going to their spots. It was an incredible experience to watch her work with her team and to be able to capture this. I was in the truck for the run, so I was not actually watching it from the house. I was watching the shots, and so I could see what was being covered. And then we talked between the first performance and the second performance on what we needed to make sure to cover that we didn’t get the first time out, so we would have all of those things during the editing process. 

What feedback were you looking to give during the editing process to make sure that the show resonated in a different format?

My goal in directing the show initially was to have these characters come across as honestly as possible. Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis, the writers of this musical, have put so much of that into the writing and I just wanted to make sure that the film version carried through that same level of honesty and humanity. I have to give credit to the editor and to Robin for insisting on that and finding a way. There are some things that film does that the theater doesn’t do, and a lot of that is in how much storytelling can happen in a closeup. On stage, you can’t possibly be seeing something that’s happening [up close]. I was just very proud of our company of teenage actors for giving performances that read in the minutia, and in the ultra closeness of a film that was every bit as honest as they get in the theater.

I’m always impressed with young performers, like Holden, who can inject that type of humanity into a performance.

Absolutely. Holden is from Sugarland, Texas. He came to New York and had not really spent a whole lot of time in New York before. He took the mantle of this giant show on his shoulders, where he goes through a huge emotional rage. And the amazing thing about this film was that we hadn’t done the show for a month. So these kids came together on the day, and did this show that they hadn’t rehearsed since December, to reunite for one time only, and they all just gave it their all and it really comes through.

So, there were only two rehearsals and then they just went for it?

Well, not even rehearsals. We just came in and did one run through, which was our rehearsal at noon, and then we shot the show at 4:30. They were out of there at 8 p.m. So it was eight hours total in the theater. We were in the middle of COVID, and it was kind of a minor miracle that everybody tested negative on the day. Everybody there was really kind of incredible. We called it the miracle on 42nd street.

How did it feel to watch this all come together?

Well, mostly grateful and also amazed. Our intention of putting this together, both mine and Josh Prince, the choreographer, and Julianne and Dan, from the beginning, we wanted this to reach as many people as possible. There’s just a limited number of people that can see a live stage production in the middle of a pandemic. So to be able to freeze time and watch these kids at the very age that they’re correct for these parts, perform this and be able to just have that forever, is an incredible gift. I was thinking about the fact that this is going to always exist and theater is ephemeral. It exists only on the day that you go see it, and so to be able to have this live on in this way is incredible.