Boys in the Band - Original Production at the Wyndham's Theatre 1969
Previewed 5 February 1969, Opened 11 February 1969, Closed 10 January 1970 at the Wyndham's Theatre in London
The West End transfer of Mart Crowley's hit off-Broadway play Boys in the Band featuring the New York cast
Nine men. One secret. A hell of a party. Michael invites his fellow gay friends around to celebrate Harold's birthday but their comic camp haven is exploded when Alan, Michael's homophobic ex-college roommate decides to pay an unexpected visit. As the booze is drunk and the dope smoked, the mood swings from hilarity to heartbreak.
The original West End cast featured Tom Aldredge as 'Emory', Frederick Combs as 'Donald', Leonard Frey as 'Harold', Reuben Greene as 'Bernard', Robert La Tourneaux as 'Cowboy', Laurance Luckinbill as 'Hank', Kenneth Nelson as 'Michael', Keith Prentice as 'Larry' and Peter White as 'Alan'. Directed by Robert Moore with designs by Peter Harvey.
Boys in the Band - 1st West End Revival at the Aldwych Theatre 1997
Previewed 23 October 1997, Opened 29 October 1997, Closed 20 December 1997 at the Aldwych Theatre in London
The award-winning New York revival of Mart Crowley's landmark 1960's comedy The Boys in the Band in London for a strictly limited season.
The cast features Byran Carney as 'Cowboy', Norman Cooley as 'Hank', Don Gilet as 'Bernard', Earl Grey as 'Emory', Robin Hart as 'Michael', Matthew Sharp as 'Donald', Patrick Toomey as 'Larry', Paul Venables as 'Alan' and Luke Williams as 'Harold'. Directed by Kenneth Elliott with set by Nigel Hook, costumes by Anne Curry and lighting by Martin Hazlewood. This production was originally seen at the King's Head Theatre in North London (opened on 10 September 1997 and closed on 20 October 1997).
"Now it has its first West End revival, a well-received fringe production transplanted to the Aldwych from the King's Head. Everybody will remark that Boys in the Band has 'dated'. I think Kenneth Elliott's production is at fault. Though Boys still feels like a pretty good play, as well as a bold and honest one, the execution here is distractingly hit-and-miss... The notion of a 'gay community' seems more than usually fictitious - in the very first play that aimed to put it on view. Despite the statutory fondlings, nobody on stage seems closely attuned to anybody else. Very British, that - everybody dancing decorously to his own tune; but open American sentiments would vitalise the play no end. That is why the big finale falls disappointingly flat. At the drunken birthday-party Michael instigates a 'truth-game': everybody is to try to ring up the person he has always loved. Though there are predictable snags and evasions, the reluctant last contestant springs a surprise that leaves the others embarrassed and discomfited. Or should - but nobody here knows anybody else well enough to be all that bothered; we don't feel ripples of discomfiture spreading through the party-guests, and the game builds too little tension." The Financial Times
"Modern audiences are more likely to be taken aback by the play's evident self-loathing. Director Kenneth Elliott quite rightly keeps the play in its late-sixties setting, but it's not just a period piece. What you see are the beginnings of a distinct community and culture, forged for reasons of self-preservation as much as choice. The humour in particular has hardly dated, even if Earl Grey's limp-wristed Emory and Bryan Carney's dim, beautiful Cowboy are stereotypes. Elliott's production is too fuzzy and bland to make this the revival the play deserves, and although Luke William's watchful birthday boy is exotically dangerous, Robin Hart's Michael lacks presence, depth and an appropriate accent. When he announces 'Show me a happy homosexual and I'll show you a gay corpse,' it seems less like a savage, self-inflicted wound and more a piece of reactionary twaddle." The Guardian
"What really dates the play is something positively welcome. If Crowley were writing today, he would surely not feel the need to attack homosexual self-hatred and heterosexual prejudice in quite so unsubtle a manner... Some of the acting is more stilted and precious than it should be, but, even if it were better, the play's limitations would be evident. With a kissogram cowboy and hustler ranging the stage saying predictably dim things, there are amusing moments. But the effect is of a cutprice version of Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: less witty, cruder, and not as much fun." The Times
Boys in the Band in London at the Aldwych Theatre previewed from 23 October 1997, opened on 29 October 1997 and closed on 20 December 1997
Boys in the Band - 2nd West End Revival at the Vaudeville Theatre 1997
Opened 7 February 2017, Closed 18 February 2017 at the Vaudeville Theatre in London
Following an acclaimed run at the Park Theatre in North London, Adam Penford's revival of The Boys in the Band starring Mark Gatiss comes into London's West End for a strictly limited two week season
The cast features Mark Gatiss as 'Harold', Daniel Boys as 'Donald', Jack Derges as 'Cowboy', Ian Hallard as 'Michael', James Holmes as 'Emory', John Hopkins as 'Alan', Greg Lockett as 'Bernard', Ben Mansfield as 'Larry' and Nathan Nolan as 'Hank'. Directed by Adam Penford with designs by Rebecca Brower, lighting by Jack Weir and sound by James Nicholson. This production was originally seen at the Park Theatre in North London (previewed from 28 September 2016, opened on 4 October 2016 and closed on 30 October 2016) and brief regional tour.
Mark Gatiss' West End credits include Samuel Adamson's play, based on the film by Pedro Almodovar, All About My Mother at the Old Vic Theatre in 2007 and the comedy The League of Gentlemen at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 2001.
When this production opened at the Vaudeville Theatre in February 2017 Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard said that director Adam Penford's "well-cast revival makes a decent case for its enduring value — not least as an illustration of the toxic effects of homophobia.... Strong performances elevate material that’s occasionally inspired yet sometimes redolent of the more tepid sort of sitcom... The result is a fitfully entertaining two hours that’s likeable rather than revelatory." Neil Norman in the Daily Express observed that, "if some of the problems of being gay in a heterosexual world are too obviously stated, there are plenty of funny lines to keep the dialogue buoyant. A camp nostalgia trip and a product of its era, Crowley’s play is showing its age in spite of liberal application of make-up. But I still laughed a lot." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that, "if it creaks at times, the cast - expertly directed by Adam Penford - answer the play's undisguised need to keep the laughs coming, embracing the period aspects while also rooting the flip, arch, caustic, increasing dark exchanges in emotional truth."
When this production was originally seen at the Park Theatre in London in October 2016, Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times commented that "it's shocking that this was shocking just a few decades ago simply because of its subject matter... But what emerges now, with the shock value removed, is the drama's enduring insight into the deep psychological damage done by homophobia... Adam Penford's staging doesn't overcome these problems, but it does include some wonderful laugh-out-loud moments and brings a real shiver to the violence, both physical and psychological. And it brings out the emotional truths in the drama." Ann Treneman in the Times wrote that "Adam Penford mostly keeps it flowing but it does lag at times and some lines grate, not necessarily because they are dated but because they are just too close to sitcom trite. The performances are top-notch, though." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph described how, "in Adam Penford's slick revival... Mart Crowley's play may no longer be radical but it still has the power to bite." Fiona Mountford in The London Evening Standard stated how "it’s always tricky when a play that was groundbreaking in its time is revived some years later. Attitudes and morals will have shifted and the piece runs the risk of looking merely dated. Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band, which premiered off-Broadway in 1968, placed a novel and illuminating focus on gay lives, but unfortunately the years haven’t been so kind."
"In this rare revival of the first play to put openly gay lives centre stage. Mark Gatiss' entrance as the intimidatingly acerbic Harold is priceless. With permed mop, cream flares and cool shades he is a birthday party's guest of honour - a vision of fearless and impossibly proud camp... Is it dated? Well, yes. Especially with the arrival of host Michael's uninvited guest Alan, a straight former college roommate who shows up like a breath of stale air. When Michael, his meanness now fuelled by alcohol, imposes on his guests a parlour game that makes Truth or Dare look as dangerous as Tiddlywinks, alpha male Alan's crash course on gay love feels as relevant as a 1970s sitcom. But it's all superbly performed, very funny and the anxiety that goes with only being able to fully express yourself in your own community still feels convincing. Because the play captures an important moment in theatre and gay history, there's no need to wince when the evening strays into stereotype. Instead embrace it, in all its waspish, effeminate and butch glory." The Metro
"Mart Crowley's 1968 play will surely always fascinate sociologists and historians, but its shine is fading on stage. A year before the Stonewall riots, before Aids and long before gay marriage, a group of friends, plus one good-looking cowboy, gather in Michael's apartment to celebrate the birthday of Mark Gatiss's slightly sinister Harold. The barbed jokes about tired fairies and screaming queens fly around the room, alongside the inevitable quotes from famous films. The security of the group is undermined when Alan, an old straight friend of Michael's, unexpectedly turns up - the men are initially divided as to whether they should carry on camping it up or hide behind their Ivy League clothes. As the drink flows, the sadness of the play lies in the fact that Alan's disgust at finding himself surrounded by 'pansies' is as nothing to the self-hate the guys feel for themselves... For all the skilful timing of Adam Penford's lively production, the play is as creaky as the world it portrays." The Sunday Times
The Boys in the Band in London at the Vaudeville Theatre opened on 7 February 2017 and closed on 18 February 2017