In the bitchy vernacular of contemporary gay society, a “troll” typically refers to a man of a certain age (i.e., over 40) whose less-than-perfect looks inspire revulsion or derision from the usually younger, hotter men he is trying to pursue. The new musical Trolls features five such demographically cursed men, assembled for the wake of one of their closest friends. Fully cognizant of their obsolete status, the protagonists spend the bulk of their time reminiscing about a simpler era when gay culture meant Garland, Hayworth, and bathhouses, as opposed to Madonna, Britney, and Crunch. High on sentimentality and surprisingly low on camp, Trolls manages to achieve the near impossible—it makes an evening with a group of over-the-top queens feel boring and endless.
The musical’s five principal trogs are all safely recognizable: the mother hen, the drag queen, the ethnic sidekick, the dapper gentleman, and the aging stud. Each gets a chance to belt out an aria or two (or three) about accepting yourself for who you are and being proud of your gay heritage, etc. Embarrassingly sincere, Trolls moves from one self-affirmational platitude to another without ever attempting to put its screeching clichés within quotation marks. The arrival of a young stud momentarily jolts the old gits out of their nostalgic reverie. But the boy is all too quickly pulled into the play’s preachy vortex, becoming the eager pupil to this gaggle of tiresome life instructors.
Trolls is so amateurishly produced and directed that it often feels like the type of thinly plotted variety show you might find on a cruise ship or at a retirement home. In the end, Trolls even betrays its own underdog moral by pairing off the two best-looking members of its cast. Youth and beauty win out after all.