Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

A new Boys In The Band

A new touring production of THE BOYS IN THE BAND turns out to be the first major revival in decades of Mart Crowley's 1968 play, a landmark production and a certified gay classic.
I remember the original production being on in London then, but being in my early twenties, I had no interest in seeing it. The original cast did the film too in 1970., directed by William Friedkin, which I saw at the time but had no real memory of, so really I was coming to this new production without any pre-conceived ideas.  A friend saw it last October in its initial theatre run, and it is today finishing a two week run in London's west end.
I had a great seat in the front row, so it almost felt I was on stage with them. It turned out to be another great gay revival like those of THE JUDAS KISS and MY NIGHT WITH REG in recent years (see Theatre. Gay Interest labels).
It is also a 60s landmark play, like Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? (also getting a major revival in London this spring), and like that play it also descends into booze hell and 'get the guest' games as the drama unfolds.
I loved the set here, with all those movie star pictures, and that 60s soundtrack. The cast of 9 do it justice too. Mark Gatiss (SHERLOCK, DR WHO) and his real life husband Ian Hallard are the leads as Harold and Michael - host of the birthday party for Harold. Daniel Boys scores as the nice guy Donald, and Jack Derges is an eye-catching midnight cowboy - he may be a trick but he is also a treat in a lively performance. Michael's is the lead role with lots of lines and business - it must be exhausting playing it twice a day on matinee days. 

It is the first major revival of this iconic play in two decades, and it still works as an engrossing drama, capturing that late sixties moment in 1968 before Stonewall and gay liberation in the 1970s and the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. So we get lots of Bette Davis and Judy Garland impressions as Emory and the others camp it up, as Michael's straight college buddy unexpectedly drops in ....

It is 1968 and nine men gather in a New York apartment for a birthday celebration. Harold receives a surprise gift from his friend Emory in the form of a beautiful male hustler. Meanwhile party host Michael gets an unwanted surprise of his own, As the booze is drank and the dope smoked, the mood swings from hilarity to heartbreak. 

It is a busy play to stage, with all those props and food and drink - the cast have to eat salad and lasagne, as well as drink whatever is in those bottles, as well as emote. To my surprise, I liked it a lot, and have now ordered the film dvd to see how it was staged then, and that original cast (above, right), several of whom did not survive the Aids era. 
"Its the Downbeat club at three in the morning, you are singing just for yourself and the boys in the band" - Norman Maine to Esther in A STAR IS BORN, 1954 

This post has now got over 200 views, and my pal Colin tweeted it to the boys:

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps if I lived in London I could be persuaded to see it. I saw the original London production and loved it; it was revolutionary in its day. Of course, over the years it has fallen out of favour, both the play and the film. It is a classic, I agree even if it does exist in something of a time capsule.