“The Boys in the Band” stands as one of the biggest casting stories of the year. That is a big boost to the prospects for this Netflix release at the upcoming SAG Awards. The story, by the late Mart Crowley, focuses on a group of gay friends gathered at a birthday party. It’s 1968. One year before the Stonewall Riots cracked open the gay rights movement. When the play premiered Off-Broadway that year, it was the first time audiences saw a genuine depiction of gay life on stage. This legacy was honored in the 2018 Broadway revival which starred only out men. That same group reprised their performances on film.
And that ensemble is big. Nine actors will appear on the SAG ballot: Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer, Andrew Rannells, Robin de Jesus, Tuc Watkins, Michael Benjamin Washington, Charlie Carver, and Brian Hutchinson. Such large ensembles have reigned supreme with this awards body. Just look at the list of recent winners: “Parasite” had 10 actors, 12 for “Black Panther,” 11 for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” and nine in “Hidden Figures.”
Parsons was a member of the winning “Hidden Figures” ensemble. He is a favorite of SAG voters, as he has amassed a total of 11 nominations. For “The Big Bang Theory” he was part of six TV Comedy Ensemble bids and four individual TV Comedy Actor ones.
The SAG nominating committee is comprised of both film and television actors. As such, the guild awards have taken a populist bent in recent years. Parsons was the lead of one of TV’s most popular shows, which was warmly embraced by these kudos. It stands to reason that his latest project may be as well.
The rest of the cast may not be SAG Awards darlings (Carver is the only other cast member with a nomination as part of the ensemble for “Desperate Housewives”), but they are popular actors in their own right. Quinto plays Spock in the successful “Stark Trek” franchise. Bomer rose to prominence with his series “White Collar” before becoming an Emmy nominee and Golden Globe winner for “The Normal Heart.” Rannells just picked up a Critics Choice nomination for “Black Monday” and is a two-time Tony nominee for “The Book of Mormon” and “Falsettos.” De Jesus was the only cast member nominated at the Tonys for “The Boys in the Band,” his third such nomination after “La Cage aux Folles” and “In the Heights.”
That theater pedigree may help “The Boys in the Band” outmaneuver other contenders for a nomination. The SAG Ensemble category frequently finds room for stage-to-screen projects. Musicals with big casts frequently make an appearance. “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls,” “Hairspray,” “Nine,” and “Les Miserables” were all nominated here.
But play adaptations are favored as well, even if they were not otherwise major players during Oscar season. “The Birdcage” won the award in 1996, beating out another stage adaptation, “Marvin’s Room.” Other examples include “Finding Neverland,” “Doubt,” “Frost/Nixon,” “August: Osage County,” “Fences,” and “Moonlight.” Perhaps SAG voters will find room for yet another Broadway transfer in their top category.
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