The Boys in the Band are back in a new Netflix film based on Mart Crowley’s landmark 1968 play. Two years ago the Broadway production of the story about a group of gay and bisexual men, who despite the booze-induced sniping and nasty parlor games are each other’s found family, won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play. Now the first trailer for the film (out September 30), with its all-star cast of out men from that production, has dropped. And the film from producer Ryan Murphy and directed by Joe Mantello (who directed it on Broadway) captures the vintage fashion, language, and dance moves of the time. Its humor and heart also illuminate its characters’ resilience in an intolerant culture.
Boys stars Jim Parsons as Michael, the caustic host who throws a birthday for Harold (Zachary Quinto), who needs to “smoke a little grass” before he’s ready to show his face. Matt Bomer plays Donald, Michael’s devoted and somewhat neurotic confidante; Robin de Jesús is Emory, who takes potshots for his tendency to camp it up; and Michael Benjamin Washington (soon to be seen in Ratched) portrays the sensitive Bernard. Real-life couple (they fell in love during the Broadway run) Andrew Rannells and Tuc Watkins appear, respectively, as the lothario Larry and Hank, who left his wife for Larry. Rounding out the cast are Brian Hutchison as Michael’s old college chum who turns up unannounced and Charlie Carver as the “Cowboy,” a hustler who is Emory’s birthday gift to Harold.
Crowley died earlier this year, but the essence of the Broadway production led by openly queer men, something that could never have happened when it premiered 50 years earlier, is evident in the trailer for the film.
The original off-Broadway play was a hit that was made into a film in 1970 with William Friedkin (The French Connection, The Exorcist) as the director. But with the evolution of LGBTQ+ Pride that really kicked in around the time the film came out, it’s been considered by some to depict its characters as negative stereotypes often described as “self-loathing." But Mantello hearkens to its power in the production notes for the film.
“What’s happened in the intervening years is that it’s also held up as a great piece of dramatic literature,” Mantello says. “It’s among those plays that are so well-crafted that they can stand the test of time. And there are very few of those.”
Watch the trailer for The Boys in the Band below.