Born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, Nelson appeared in several television series in the late 1940s, Captain Video and His Video Rangers and The Aldrich Family among them. He was cast in his first Broadway show, Seventeen, a musical adaptation of the Booth Tarkington novel that opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on June 21, 1951 and ran 182 performances.
Nelson found little work for the remainder of the decade, but in 1960, he was cast in an off-Broadway show entitled The Fantasticks, which eventually became the world's longest-running musical with 17,162 performances. In 1962, he was hired to understudy Anthony Newley in Stop the World - I Want to Get Off when it transferred from the West End, eventually assuming the lead role when the star departed the show. From there, he went to another London import, Half a Sixpence, in 1965.
In 1968, Nelson accepted the lead in the controversial and groundbreaking off-Broadway production of The Boys in the Band, the first play to explore the milieu of gay life in New York City in a verbally frank manner. He and the rest of the cast went on to appear in the 1970 film version directed by William Friedkin.
Also in 1970 Nelson returned to Broadway in the lead role in Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentlemen, a musical adaptation of The Teahouse of the August Moon. It was a critical and commercial disaster, closing after only 19 performances. In 1974, he played a leading role in the highly successful revue Cole at London's Mermaid Theatre.
He spent the rest of his career in small roles on television and in movies of little distinction. Nelson died in 1993 of AIDS-related complications in London.
The Boys in the Band: 40th Anniversary Edition by Mart Crowley
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Alyson Books; 40 Anv edition (April 1, 2008)
Amazon: The Boys in the Band: 40th Anniversary Edition
“Boys can still hold its own . . . [Mart] Crowley’s point is about how the humor is shaped and defined by the pain.”—The New York Times
The Boys in the Band was the first commercially successful play to reveal gay life to mainstream America. Alyson is proud to release a special fortieth anniversary edition of the play, which includes an original preface by acclaimed writer Tony Kushner (Angels in America), along with previously unpublished photographs of Mart Crowley and the cast of the play/film.
Mart Crowley’s other plays include the autobiographical A Breeze from the Gulf (1973) and The Men from the Boys (2002).
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Gay Classics
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