Five decades after its original release, the play “The Boys in the Band – Os Garotos da Banda” will be relaunched in Brazil on October 31st at the Procópio Ferreira Theater.
Directed by Ricardo Grasson, the new production of the play features Bruno Narchi, Caio Evangelista, Caio Paduan, Gabriel Santana, Heber Gutierrez, Heitor Garcia, Júlio Oliveira, Leonardo Miggiorin, Mateus Ribeiro, Tiago Barbosa, and Otávio Martins in the lead roles.
The first Brazilian version, which premiered in São Paulo in 1970 at the Cacilda Becker Theater, was produced by Eva Wilma and John Herbert – a heterosexual couple. With translation by Millor Fernandes, “Os Rapazes da Banda” featured a cast including names such as Raul Cortez, Walmor Chagas, Paulo César Pereio, Otávio Augusto, Gésio Amadeu, Dennis Carvalho, and John Herbert himself Despite its success, during the peak of the Military Dictatorship, the play faced criticism from conservative circles and censorship due to its depiction of relationships between men in the midst of the sexual revolution in the pre-HIV epidemic era.
Fifty-three years later, “The Boys in the Band – Os Garotos da Banda” finds itself in a Brazil grappling with the aftermath of a conservative wave, striving to rebuild its social and cultural foundations. With production by ZR Produções and directed by Ricardo Grasson, nominated for the Bibi Ferreira Award in the category of “Best Direction in Musicals” for “O Bem Amado Musicado”, the play carries a sense of triumph:
“The significance of staging the play today is to assimilate and comprehend what we have achieved in the last fifty years. Achievements within the LGBTQIA+ movement, the black movement, the feminist movement, and in the geopolitical landscape worldwide. It’s about analyzing how far we have come and where we have remained stagnant. For this reason, I chose to set the play in the 1960s and not update it”, Grasson explains.
Homoaffective relationships in the 1960s
The story is set in New York and revolves around a group of gay friends who gather to celebrate one of their birthdays. The play addresses issues of identity, sexuality, relationships, and self-acceptance. As the party progresses and alcohol flows, repressed conflicts and resentments among the characters surface during a venomous game, leading to personal revelations and tense, intense emotional moments.
The play was notable for its open portrayal of gay life at the time it was written, when acceptance of homosexuality was limited and LGBTQIA+ rights struggles were still in their infancy.
Conceived just one year before the Stonewall Riots – a representative moment for the gay community and its struggle for basic rights – it offers a candid, often harsh and painful look into the lives of these characters and how they grapple with issues of authenticity and acceptance in a reactionary and violent society that marginalizes anything that doesn’t conform to established norms.
For Tony Kushner, playwright responsible for “Angels in America” and Oscar-nominated for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for “Munich” (Dir: Steven Spielberg, 2005), The Boys in the Band precisely represents the breakthrough moment for the humanization of homosexuals.
In the introduction to the 2018 printed edition, Kushner explains that “there are moments when patterns break, behaviors shift, and his characters manage to articulate a commitment to change their stance”. According to him, the play captures the unsettling, strange, and embarrassing aspects of these pre-explosion moments toward liberation.
A play ahead of its time
“The Boys in the Band” is considered a significant work in the history of LGBTQIA+ theater and has had a significant impact on the representation and discussion of the gay community.
The American premiere in 1968 shocked mainstream audiences by openly depicting the everyday lives of homosexuals and ran for 1,001 performances. The play’s title is a reference to the 1954 film A Star Is Born, starring Judy Garland, an icon for the gay community in the United States.
In the movie, James Mason says that Judy’s character “is singing for herself and for the boys in the band”, a slang from that time to refer to gays.
For theater critic Peter Filichia, the original production of the play helped inspire the Stonewall protests in 1969 and catalyzed the gay rights movement. It couldn’t be more fitting: on the day of the Stonewall Riots, “The Boys in the Band” was playing in a theater near the protest. While fleeing police repression, the protesters took refuge in the theater that was showcasing to the world the struggles and dilemmas of being a gay man in a context of conservative oppression.
Success on stage and on screen
“The Boys in the Band” was adapted for the cinema on two occasions, both times with great success both critically and commercially. Additionally, it has seen numerous theatrical productions worldwide over the years.
The first version was adapted for the cinema by Matt Crowley himself and directed by William Friedkin, who won the 1973 Oscar for the classic The Exorcist.
In 2020, two years after being revived on Broadway and winning a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, The Boys in the Band received a new film adaptation directed by Joe Mantello and produced by Ryan Murphy, responsible for hits such as “Glee”, “Pose” and “American Horror Story”.
This new version is also considered historic for being the first production with an entirely gay cast. The film was one of Netflix’s biggest hits that year and demonstrates that the story remains a relevant and influential work in LGBTQIA+ culture.
“The Boys in the Band”
Starting from October 31, 2023
Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at 9 PM
PROCÓPIO FERREIRA THEATER
Rua Augusta, 2.823 – Cerqueira César – São Paulo – Brazil
Tickets: R$ 120
Where to buy:
At the Procópio Ferreira box office: Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 PM to 7 PM; Thursday to Sunday from 2 PM until the start of the show; Venue opens: 1 hour before each performance.
624 seats, including 7 seats adapted for obese individuals and an additional 12 reserved seats
for wheelchair users.
“The Boys in the Band”
Original text: Mart Crowley
Direction: Ricardo Grasson
Brazilian version: Caio Evangelista
Production management: Zuza Ribeiro
Steering assistance: Heitor Garcia
Cast: Bruno Narchi, Caio Evangelista, Caio Paduan, Heber Gutierrez, Júlio Oliveira, Leonardo Miggiorin, Mateus Ribeiro, Tiago Barbosa e Otávio Martins.
Stand-ins: Heitor Garcia, Gabriel Santana
Light design: Cesar Pivetti
Sound Design: L.P. Daniel
Scenography: Marco Lima
Costume: Marcos Valadão
Visagism: Louise Helene
Executive Production: Zuza Ribeiro, Claudia Odorissio, Jeana Kamil and Erica Cardoso
Production Assistants: David Calado, Luiz Ricci. Guilherme Zanel
Press: Alisson Schafascheck, Danilo Saraiva, Giulianna Campos and Vicente Negrão
Marketing: Higor Gonçalves
Social Media: Pedro Caldeira
Photos: Rafael Cusato