A version of this story appeared prior to the Tony Award nominations announcement.
A 50-year-old play just earned its playwright his first Tony, thanks to a new rule for the 2019 Tony Awards.
When The Boys in the Band opened on Broadway last May, Mart Crowley had never before seen one of his shows produced on the Great White Way. But a handful of months, sold-out houses, and a new rule that allows living authors to be among the nominees for Best Revival of a Play later, Crowley has not only made his Broadway debut but also landed a Tony Award.
“It’s better than Christmas, better than a birthday since the get-go,” Crowley says of the experience, prior to receiving the nomination. “I didn’t dream that when my agent called me to say that Ryan Murphy and David Stone wanted to option the play.”
And though The Boys in the Band become a symbol of Off-Broadway theatre in the ‘70s and received a film adaptation featuring much of its original cast, the version seen on Broadway differs from that with which most readers have been familiar.
Director Joe Mantello screened the film multiple times, editing the published script into that of the screenplay, which he then presented to Crowley. “He was thinking I was one of those guys who couldn’t part with one word,” Crowley says, “and I just begged him all the way through, ‘Oh my god, we’ve got to cut more! We’ve got to get rid of this, we’ve got to get rid of that.’ And that really cheers up a director right away.”
What was ultimately see on Broadway—starring Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Robin De Jesús, Brian Hutchison, Michael Benjamin Washington, Tuc Watkins, and Charlie Carver—was fairly close to what audiences saw in the 1968 Off-Broadway production. Back then, director Robert Moore kept saying, “‘Oh these arias! These arias! You’ve got to get rid of some of these words,” Crowley remembers. “At that time I would fight him because I thought every word was gold. And his line always to me was, ‘Save it for the printed version.’ And so like an idiot I saved it for the printed version! So there’s so much material in the play when you read it, the original, that was never performed in the original. There was reams of stuff to cut that was never even ever acted because they just kept talking about themselves. Once in a while there are purists who will get their hands on it and to my horror they do every last word, and you’re there for three and a half hours!”
And though the cast and Mantello will be heading to Netflix for a new adaptation, there is no word on whether Crowley’s sequel, The Men From the Boys, will ever receive its long overdue New York City production.
“No one’s mentioned the sequel to me, and there’s some kind of message there,” Crowley says with a laugh. “It can be bought for reading, for curiosity. But if anyone’s read it, they haven’t told me.” He does point out that other Crowley plays live on, including two he’d love to see produced again: For Reasons That Remain Unclear and A Breeze From the Gulf.
But in the meantime, those interested in doing the Broadway version of The Boys in the Band at last have the condensed script available in a new edition of the play from Samuel French, which combines the 2018 revival with the original printed version. “And I hope people will from here on out get the message to do the Broadway version,” Crowley says, laughing. “They can read all that other stuff just for their own amusement.”