When The Boys in the Band opens on the Great White Way this month, it will be one hell of a celebration, marking the 50th anniversary of the Off Broadway debut with a hotly anticipated cast that comprises only openly gay actors. Roughly a month out from opening night, however, the troupe has yet to move into the Booth Theatre. They’re not even in New York. Instead, the production has temporarily relocated to Downtown Los Angeles to make life easier for lead Jim Parsons, who’s busy filming The Big Bang Theory. Star Trek’s Zachary Quinto, too, is double-booked, recording a voiceover for an upcoming series. Meanwhile, Andrew Rannells (of Girls fame) is about to drop a PBS concert special, and Matt Bomer (Magic Mike) is spending his few available hours with his three kids.
This scheduling madness is one reason why Boys promises to be a treat: There probably won’t be another chance to see together onstage this caliber of actors from Hollywood’s first out-and-proud generation—or at least not anytime soon.
The first of its kind, Mart Crowley’s 1968 drama follows a droll but tortured group of gay men during a birthday gone wrong. (Parsons plays the host and Quinto the birthday boy in an emotionally cramped Upper East Side apartment.) The original production boasted tons of buzz and a 1,000-plus-date Off Broadway run, but Boys wasn’t without its critics. LGBT groups protested the 1970 film adaptation, directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist), citing its dour depiction of gay life. While each actor in the 2018 revival has wrestled with the play, each, too, seems to have evolved alongside his role. For Bomer, who’s making his Broadway debut, Boys has encouraged him to revisit his own coming-of-age. Parsons is forthright in admitting his initial hesitation, while Rannells, the stage veteran of the bunch, is endearingly confident. Quinto, cited by castmates as the most introspective, is just that. As one of the first productions to put queerness front and center, Boys continues to be meaningful, especially for its players. It takes no time for them to start sermonizing on why this historically polarizing story still feels necessary five decades on.