The Boys in the Band

The Boys in the Band

The Boys in the Band

Written by Mart Crowley
Date premiered April 14, 1968
Place premiered Theatre Four
New York City
Original language English
Genre Drama
Setting Manhattan



The play premiered Off-Broadway on April 14, 1968 at Theater Four,[2] and closed on September 6, 1970 after 1,001 performances.[3] Directed by Robert Moore, the cast included Kenneth Nelson as Michael, Peter White as Alan, Leonard Frey as Harold, Cliff Gorman as Emory, Frederick Combs as Donald, Laurence Luckinbill as Hank, Keith Prentice as Larry, Robert La Tourneaux as Cowboy, and Reuben Greene as Bernard. The play was one of the first works to present a story centered around homosexuals.[4]

1968 Cast and Creative

Frederick Combs – Donald
Leonard Frey – Harold
Cliff Gorman – Emory
Reuben Greene – Bernard
Robert La Tourneaux – Cowboy
Laurence Luckinbill – Hank
Kenneth Nelson – Michael
Keith Prentice – Larry
Peter White – Alan

Richard Barr – Producer
Charles Woodward Jr. – Producer
Mart Crowley – Playwright
Robert Moore – Director
Peter Harvey – Design
David Rothenberg – Press Representative
Larry Schneider – Press Representative

Boys In The Band play

The play was revived Off-Broadway at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 1996, running from August 6, 1996 to October 20, 1996.[5]

The Boys in the Band was presented by the Transport Group Theater Company, New York City, from February 2010 to March 14, 2010, directed by Jack Cummings III.[1]

In 2002, Crowley wrote The Men from the Boys, a sequel to the play, which takes place 30 years after the original. The Men from the Boys premiered in San Francisco in 2002, directed by Ed Decker,[3] and was produced in Los Angeles in 2003.[6]

In 2018, Joe Mantello will direct a Broadway revival of the play, starring Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Andrew Rannells, for its 50th anniversary, See more at Theatregold.


The play is set in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and the backgrounds of characters are revealed during a birthday party.

  • Harold celebrates his birthday party, thrown by six of his closest friends. He becomes increasingly morose about losing his youthful looks and claims that he no longer can attract cute young men.
  • Cowboy“, an attractive, blond prostitute who is “not too bright”,[8] is one of Harold’s presents.
  • Alan is an unexpected party guest, Michael’s allegedly straight college friend,[9] who is in town and anxious to tell Michael something but hesitant to do so when he sees the group.

Harold’s six closest friends are:

  • Michael is Harold’s “friend-enemy”,[9] the host, and a lapsed Catholic as well as an alcoholic undergoing psychoanalysis.
  • Donald is a conflicted friend who has moved from the city to spurn the homosexual “lifestyle”.
  • Bernard is an African-American, who still pines for the wealthy white boy in the house where his mother worked as a maid.
  • Emory is flamboyant and “effeminate”.
  • Larry, a fashion photographer who prefers multiple sex partners.
  • Hank, Larry’s live-in boyfriend who was previously married to a woman, and “passes” as straight. He disagrees with Larry on the issue of monogamy.

During the party, the humor takes a nasty turn, as the nine men become increasingly inebriated. The party culminates in a game, where each man must call someone and tell him he loves him. Michael, believing that Alan has finally “outed” himself when he makes his call, realizes that Alan’s wife is the recipient of Alan’s call when he grabs the phone away from Alan. The audience never learns what Alan intended to discuss with Michael in the end.


Crowley told Dominick Dunne about the title: “It’s that line in A Star is Born when James Mason tells a distraught Judy Garland, “You’re singing for yourself and the boys in in the band.””[10]


According to Crowley’s friend Gavin Lambert, actress Natalie Wood, who sympathized with Hollywood’s gay scene, financially supported Crowley, who is gay,[11][12] so he would be free to write his play.[13] Crowley, who first met her while working as a production assistant on the movie Splendor in the Grass, worked as an assistant for Wood and her husband Robert Wagner for many years.[11]

Crowley reminded himself of Michael as “a complex person who is aware of what is politically correct but has a sort of contempt for it”, and he called Donald “a foil for Michael”[3] and an inspiration of Crowley’s friend.[11] In the 1995 documentary, The Celluloid Closet, Crowley explained, “The self-deprecating humor was born out of a low self-esteem, from a sense of what the times told you about yourself.”[14]


Main article: The Boys in the Band

The play was adapted into a feature film of the same name by Cinema Center Films in 1970, directed by William Friedkin.[15]

Reception and Impact

When The Boys in the Band premiered in 1968, mainstream audiences were shocked.[16]

The play was profiled in the William Goldman book The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway.

In the same year, a two-disc, vinyl LP set was released, containing the full dialogue of the play voiced by the original actors. Crowley wrote the sequel The Men from the Boys.

In 2002, Peter Filichia from Theater Mania found the 1969 Stonewall riots and gay rights movement inspired by the play when the play originally premiered.[17]
After gays saw The Boys in the Band, they no longer would settle for thinking of themselves as pathetic and wouldn’t be perceived as such any longer. Now that [characters] had brought their feelings out of the closet, this new generation would dare to be different. And, just as some whites’ view of blacks changed after seeing A Raisin in the Sun, so too did the outlook of many straights after they caught The Boys in the Band. Some whom I personally know felt terrible and — I saw this happen! — actually changed the way they treated gays.[17]
In 2004, David Anthony Fox from Philadelphia City Paper praised this play, its one-liners, and its live performance in Philadelphia. He rebutted criticism that the play portrayed “urban gay men as narcissistic, bitter, shallow”.[9]

In 2010, Elyse Summer in her review for CurtainUp called it a “smart gimmick” full of dated “self-homophobic, low self-esteem characters”.[8] In the same year, Steve Weinstein from the Edge website called it “Shakespearean”.[18]


  1. Ben Brantley (2010-02-24). “Broken Hearts, Bleeding Psyches”. The New York Times.
  2. The Boys in the Band, retrieved November 2, 2017
  3. Roca, Octavio (2002-10-26). “‘Boys’ to ‘Men’: Mart Crowley’s latest play takes ‘Boys in the Band’ through the past 30 years”. TheSan Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  4. “Ryan Murphy taps Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto for ‘Boys in the Band’ Broadway revival”. 2017-11-01. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
  5. ” ‘The Boys in the Band’ 1996″, retrieved November 2, 2017
  6. Hitchcock, Laura (2003-08-03). “Men From the Boys”. CurtainUp. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
  7. “Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, and Matt Bomer to Lead The Boys in the Band on Broadway | Playbill”. Playbill. Retrieved 2017-12-05.
  8. Sommer, Elyse. “The Boys in the Band review.” 19 February 2010. Web. 25 May 2012.
  9. Fox, David Anthony. “The Boys in the Band review.” Philadelphia City Paper June 17, 2012. Web. 25 May 2012.
  10. Robert Hofler: Sexplosion. From Andy Warhol to A Clockwork Orange – How a Generation of Pop Rebels Broke All the Taboos, it-Books, 2014 New York, ISBN 978-0-06-208834-5.
  11. Roca 2002, p. 2.
  12. Kinser, Jeffrey. “Mart Crowley on His Friend Natalie Wood.” Advocate 23 November 2011. Web. 25 May 2012.
  13. Jaques, Damien (May 31, 1998). “‘Boys in Band’ returns to stage, tamer now but still honest, witty”. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Missing or empty |url= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help) Document ID: 0EB82BA95CE4B17C. (subscription required)
  14. Higleyman, Liz. “What was The Boys in the Band?” 6 February 2004. Web. 25 May 2012 [1].
  15. The Boys in the Band, retrieved November 2, 2017
  16. Warfield, Polly. “The Men from the Boys review.” Backstage: The Actor’s Resource 31 July 2003. Web. 25 May 2012.
  17. Filichia, Peter. [ “Bring on the Men!”] Theater Mania October 18, 2002
  18. Weinstein, Steve. “Mart Crowley: The Man Behind the ’Boys’ ” Edge New York, February 12, 2010
  19. Full References on Wiki

Further Reading

  • Lambert, Gavin (2005). Natalie Wood: A Life (First ed.). Backstage Books. ISBN 0-8230-8829-4.