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Rehearsals begin on local production of 'The Boys in the Band'

Rehearsals are now underway for the forthcoming GRADS’ production of Mart Crowley’s groundbreaking smash hit play The Boys In The Band, which will be staged at The Dolphin Theatre, UWA from 4th to 14th November, during PrideFEST.

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It is directed by Barry Park, whose productions have all achieved considerable success, has twice won the Finley’s Director Award, for his multi-award winning productions of August: Osage County, and M. Butterfly.

Among his other acclaimed productions in Perth are: Present Laughter, A View from the Bridge, Other Desert Cities, Design for Living, The Real Thing, Broken Glass, All My Sons, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, all of which were nominated for several Finley Awards.

The Boys In The Band, one of the first productions to put gay lives front and centre, is about a group of entertaining, angst-ridden, openly gay men who gather for a friend’s birthday – which goes horribly wrong.

The camping, the fighting, the bitching, the laughter and the tears, Mart Crowley’s insightful depiction of gay friendship will be back on stage here after half a century.

“This extraordinary play has a wide appeal, as it is an engrossing, character-driven story,” Park says.

“Older audiences will be reminded about how different attitudes and values were in the 60s, while those who are younger will be intrigued to see how difficult it was to be gay 52 years ago.”

“Many of them will recognise aspects of themselves in the play, as essentially the play is about how people relate to one other. It has a particularly strong appeal for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

“The characters use language as a weapon, a shield or a style,” he says. “Crowley captures the voices of the characters superbly and his delicious dialogue captures the gay patois of the 1960s.”

“Each character is unique, and their individual buoyant styles reflect the resilient attitudes of 1960s gay New Yorkers who tenaciously led secretive lives in a strongly disapproving society,” he says.

“Today actors are eager to play the wonderful roles,” Park notes, “but when Crowley first brought the groundbreaking story to New York City, it was very difficult to find actors to bring the characters to life.”

He quotes playwright Crowley: “The first time, we would take anyone who would do it; we were beating the bushes. The actors who did do it were very brave. It was very different back then. You could get arrested for doing the things they do in this play. It was quite awful and ridiculous and demeaning. Naturally, everybody’s agent told them not to do this play. We offered the roles and many turned it down. Agents said it was a career killer. I have to acknowledge the bravery of the guys who did it anyway.”

Park, who is enjoying bringing the celebrated play to life, says that his talented actors, most of whom he has worked with in previous productions, play the characters very skilfully.

“Award-winning actor Thomas Dimmick is playing Michael, the protagonist, perhaps the most fascinating character,’ Park says. ‘Self-loathing, bitter and increasingly inebriated, Michael inflicts a cruel game on his party guests.”

“Michael’s conflicted friend Donald is played by Jason Dohle. Having moved far from the city to spurn the gay lifestyle, Donald returns for the evening, as he often does, and meets an ex-lover, now in a relationship.”

“Emory, the most flamboyantly gay character, the physical and verbal target of one of Michael’s homophobic friends and one of the victims of Michael’s humiliating party game is played by Cameron Leese.”

“Ex-Neighbours actor Robert Jackson plays the straight-acting teacher Hank, who has left his wife and children to live with his male partner. He brings an interesting twist to Michael’s game.”

“Hank’s partner, Larry, played by Steven Hounsome, is a character whose reluctance to commit to a monogamous relationship elicits interesting conflict in the play.”

“Fun-loving Bernard, played by American actor Erik Bibaeff, is a kind, sympathetic victim of Michael’s Affairs of the Heart game.”

“Alex Ripper plays Alan, a homophobic straight ex-roommate of Michael’s, an unexpected guest at the party, who, after taunting some of the gay characters, has skeletons ripped out of his closet.”

“The Cowboy, a naïve, attractive young male hooker, brought to the party as a present for Harold, and astounded by what he witnesses, is played by handsome young Lindsay Crane.”

“Harold, obsessed with his lack of good looks, poor complexion and fleeting youth, the last to arrive at the party, late and intoxicated, is played by Adam Poole.”

History

The Boys in the Band which is recognised for its groundbreaking depictions of male homosexuality. Described as a game changer the play, which debuted off-Broadway in 1968, depicts the social lives of a group of gay men who gather for a friend’s birthday.

Premiering in the pre-Stonewall era, the play was controversial when first staged but has gone on to be performed regularly around the globe. Originally the play was only scheduled for five performances but it went on to play over 1,000 shows in its initial run with the Stonewall riots fueling discussion about homosexuality.

The play had a successful revival for its 40th anniversary in 2014 with a Broadway production that included  Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto and Andrew Rannells. The production won the 2019 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play.

A film version featuring that cast, and directed by Ryan Murphy, will premiere on Netflix this month.

Boys in the Band will be at The Dolphin Theatre, UWA from 4th to 14th November. For more information, head to ticketswa.com


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