THE BOYS IN THE BAND (2020) is a high-profile movie, thanks to producer Ryan Murphy (creator/producer of American Horror Story, Hollywood, Ratched, etc) which premiered on Netflix Sept. 30.
It is based on a 1968 play by Mart Crowley about a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party in a New York City apartment; and which Murphy revived on Broadway 2018.
Did you know that in 1977, this play was adapted by producer-writer-director Jose Javier Reyes, then in his 20s? Tony S. Espejo (founder/Artistic Director of Bulwagang Gantimpala/Theater Foundation), fresh from studies in the UK, directed for theater company, Plays & Players with El Pueblo, Hotel Mirador, Manila as venue. Cast included Larry Leviste, Edgar Oira, Chiqui Xeres-Burgos, Cris Vertido, Menggie Cobarrubias, Marco Sison, Manny Castañeda, Soxy Topacio & Ed Villapol.
It was such a hit it spawned a “sequel” in 1978 penned & directed by Bernardo Bernardo at the Sheraton Hotel with some cast members from “Part One” plus new ones Carlo Tensuan, Emig Tagle, Marshall Factora.
Reyes wrote in his blog dated June 22, 2012: I was in college at that time and Tony asked me to adapt Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band for a dinner theater presentation in Hotel Mirador. That was how people got to know my name.
Bernardo posted on Facebook dated Aug 30, 2013: It was the longest-running-touring sex comedy romp with a star-spangled cast that kept changing. Part of the play’s draw was the actors’ freedom to weave in current hot topics and personalities in the news into the play’s dialogue. Actors reserved the most outrageous, ad-libbed zingers to surprise celebrities present in the audience!
Leviste seconded Bernardo’s recollection in his FB post dated Oct. 8, 2017: We must have performed this comedic hit more than 500 times. From Baguio to Davao, at the Little Theater of the CCP to the PICC. It went on for years. I loved playing Tonichi, the over-the-top fairy (Emory in the original).
Castañeda shared when I chatted with him on Messenger dated Sept 3, 2020: The original script became the inspiration for an improvisational play. Every performance was unique due to the endless adlibs and witty dialogues hence audiences came to see the performances more than once. In a sense it was a gag show with the basic plot of the play as the guide to put it all together in one piece.
Joey Gosiengfiao preceded Espejo’s production when in 1975 he directed the original text of TBITB for the 10th Season of Repertory Philippines at the Insular Life Theater, Makati. The cast included Behn Cervantes, Ernie Abella, Nestor U. Torre, Noel Añonuevo, Noel McRae, Sandy Donald, Leo Martinez (who replaced an actor a couple of days before opening night) & Ronaldo Valdez as the Cowboy.
Poster for PICC performance courtesy of Bernardo Bernardo: with Ed Villapol in the foreground.