“The Boys in the Band” Review

Story posted October 4, 2020 in Arts & Entertainment by Sarah Simpson.

Based on the Off Broadway play of the same name, “The Boys in the Band” is a great display of gay culture in New York City in the late 1960s.

The story is centered around a group of gay men celebrating a friend’s birthday in one of their apartments on the upper east side of Manhattan.

When the host’s straight friend arrives, who they believe is closeted, the evening becomes increasingly awkward and emotional for all of the guests. The men then proceed to play a game where they each call a man they’re in love with and tell them about their feelings.

The original play, written by Mart Crowley, premiered off Broadway in 1968 and was adapted into a film in 1970. The story sparked discussion about the challenges gay men face and began to normalize their lifestyle in popular culture — free of judgment.

In 2018, the play was revived on Broadway in celebration of its 50 year anniversary. The revival was directed by Joe Mantello and received the Tony Award in 2019 for Best Revival of a Play.

Ryan Murphy, known for his work on “American Horror Story,” “Glee” and “Ratched” helped revive the play for its Broadway run in 2018 and announced that he would also be working on a film adaptation.

Mantello reprised his directorial role, with Murphy producing along with Mantello, Ned Martel, David Stone and Alexis Martin Woodall.

Interestingly, the exact cast from the 2018 Broadway revival reprised their roles in the 2020 film. This achieved a very rare feat for both the play and film as their entire casts consisted of openly gay actors.

The sexuality of the actors may seem irrelevant, but it truly gave the film a sense of authenticity. Their chemistry all felt natural and organic.

Representation is also key as it’s great for LGBTQ youth to see a character like them being played by a gay actor rather than a straight man pretending for the paycheck.

The birthday boy, Harold, is played by Zachary Quinto. The character’s arrogant personality adds to the ongoing conflict of the film, which is largely initiated by Jim Parsons’ character Michael. Being the host of the party, Michael tries to get his friends to open up about their feelings, which causes a lot of drama.

Other standout actors in “The Boys in the Band” include Andrew Rannells as Larry, Tuc Watkins as Hank, Robin de Jesús as Emory, Matt Bomer as Donald, Michael Benjamin Washington as Bernard, Charlie Carver as Cowboy and Brian Hutchison as Alan, the straight man who figuratively took a wrong turn to end up at this party.

The performances of the nine leading actors were so different and unique. Many fit the stereotypes of gay culture but others don’t. The representation of various personalities of gay men is an interesting yet important choice that this film made.

Having so many gay characters stuck in the same apartment together, their differences are bound to present themselves. For example, when there is one token gay character in a film, it is hard to properly represent gay culture as a whole without stereotyping.

The overall pacing of the film seemed slow at times, but this also felt more natural. The entire premise takes place in one location on one night. Action isn’t always going to move at a consistent, rapid pace. It was refreshing to see the changes in tone throughout the night.

The cinematography of the film was well done but was generally dark. This fit the overall theme of ambiguity and secrecy that the characters shared. The score didn’t necessarily make itself known, but fit the mood very well and changed as the action progressed.

Overall, “The Boys in the Band” is a great representation of gay culture and it’s interesting to see how far our society has come along in terms of acceptance since the late 1960s. The story is real, natural and inspiring for audiences, whether they’re a member of the LGBTQ community or not.

Rating: 4/5


Sarah Simpson is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email sus816@psu.edu.