“The Boys in the Band,” a play about a group of gay men who gather for a birthday party in New York, was heralded for revolutionizing how gay men were seen on stage and in popular culture when it debuted off-Broadway in April of 1968.
Crowley was born Aug. 21, 1935, in Vicksburg, Miss. After graduating from the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. in 1957, he moved to Hollywood before eventually becoming the assistant to actress Natalie Wood. His other theater credits include “Remote Asylum” and the 2002 autobiographical show “The Men From the Boys,” a sequel to “The Boys in the Band.” In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Crowley co-wrote and produced the ABC drama “Hart to Hart.”
“The Boys in the Band” was later adapted into a movie in 1970, directed by William Friedkin and starring Kenneth Nelson, Peter White, Leonard Frey and Cliff Gorman. Variety called the film a “too literately faithful adaptation,” but praised it for its “bitchy, back-biting humor, fascinating character studies, melodrama and, most of all, perverse interest.” It was one of the first major American films to center on gay characters.
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“The Boys in the Band” was revived on Broadway for its 50th anniversary in 2018, in a buzzy production starring Jim Parsons, Andrew Rannells, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto. It won the Tony Award for best revival of a play in 2019.
In Variety‘s review of the 2018 revival, theater critic Marilyn Stasio called Crowley the “master of the bitchy one-liner” and said the once-groundbreaking play felt happily dated. “But not everything, and not in all circles of society, which makes this anniversary presentation doubly welcome. It not only reminds us of where we’ve been, it also serves as a warning about whatever forms of social oppression are still here and yet to come.” Ryan Murphy is adapting the play for a Netflix film with the 2018 revival cast.