REVIEW: THE BOYS IN THE BAND (Park Theatre) ★★★★★
First seen on Broadway in 1968, the year before the Stonewall Riots, THE BOYS IN THE BAND shocked audiences when it was first released for its openness about gay life.
It’s Harold’s birthday and Michael is throwing him a party, full of his closest friends, for a night of fun, cocktails and lasagne. Donald, Michael’s boyfriend is there alongside Bernard, Larry, Hank and the life and soul of the party, Emory. Emory has arranged a little present of his own for Howard, in the shape of a half naked Cowboy who arrives at the door with a birthday card around his wrist, entitling Howard to spend the whole evening with him. But when Michael’s old friend Alan (from his ‘straight’ days) arrives unexpectedly, the boys are repressed into acting like heterosexuals (which for some is easier than others). As the drinks and conversation flow, it soon becomes clear the unexpected guest has landed himself in an awkward situation and as with all good comedies, things take a turn for the worst. And if there is one thing the gays love, it’s a good slanging match.
The cast here are fantastic. Daniel Boys (Donald), Jack Derges (Cowboy), Greg Lockett (Bernard), Ben Mansfield (Larry) and Nathan Nolan (Hank) all give stellar performances in this show which really is an ensemble piece where everyone has their individual character and chance to shine on stage. John Hopkins, as Alan, the unexpected party guest, really lets rip and turns the play on its head, which was predictable but well done. TV star Mark Gatiss (alongside real life husband Ian Hallard as Michael) plays birthday boy Harold well, despite only making his entrance at the end of the first act. It is undoubtedly Miranda TV star James Holmes who gives the stand out performance as the unapologetically camp Emory and theoretically covers himself in glitter, loving every moment.
THE BOYS IN THE BAND is incredibly funny from the very beginning and manages to maintain the humour throughout the play. The set design is wonderful, with gay icons like Judy Garland lit up in picture frames above the living room. The cast are brilliant and the writing has stood the test of time and is still as relevant as it was nearly fifty years ago.
The run is almost sold out at the Park Theatre but if you can get a ticket you must go. This is one comedy that really has everything a show needs. Sheer brilliance.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Darren Bell
THE BOYS IN THE BAND plays at the Park Theatre until 30 October 2016