Party Like It’s 1999

The Boy Band Project Bounces Into Carnival Week

]

by Steve Desroches

There are certain ingredients needed to make a boy band. Get it right and you’ll have legions of screaming fans. Get it wrong and you have a creepy police lineup. Good-looking and hunky are a given. As is the ability to sing and dance. So, too, is a sense of fun. But you also need the sporty, athletic one, the boy next door with an aw-shucks smile, the bad boy, but without a record, and the sensitive, quiet one to drive it all home. It’s a winning formula that worked for pop groups like NSYNC, the Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and on to One Direction and O-Town and K Pop stars like BTS and EXO, the globally famous music groups out of South Korea. The boy band has become a staple of adolescence for so many American teenagers plastering their walls with posters of their favorite idols carrying the affection on into adulthood with nostalgia for the culture of their youth and the accompanying soundtrack.

It’s that pop culture recipe that Travis Nesbitt recognized when he performed in the off-Broadway show Altar Boyz, a musical comedy about a Christian boy band that playfully satirizes the pop music genre. After over 500 performances Nesbitt was ready to move on to other roles, but there was something about the boy band cultural phenomenon that stuck with him. He noticed that in New York, cast members of the jukebox musical Jersey Boys were getting booked for private parties and events to perform as the legendary group the Four Seasons. That’s when he had an idea. He looked at his fellow castmates, who, like himself, were cast in Altar Boyz because they looked like they belonged in a boy band, and thought they could create their own party nostalgia show. And thus the Boy Band Project was born. Seven years later the show is a continual hit with Nesbitt and a rotating cast of Broadway actors performing the best of the golden age of the boy band.

“It’s a tongue-in-cheek homage,” says Nesbitt. “There isn’t a lot that’s serious about the show. It’s campy. It’s a good time. It’s a fun trip back to the days of boy bands of the late 1990s and Y2K. I cast guys that can sing and dance, of course, but they also need to be fun and easygoing. The show is all about spreading joy, love, and a good time. I need guys that are easy to work with because if we’re having fun, the audience will, too.”

At 38, Nesbitt recalls his high school years when NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys were the most popular pop groups of the time, dominating the airwaves and the requests at school dances. Everyone had their favorites and crushes, including Nesbitt, but at the time he had to keep his in the closet, along with himself. But the Boy Band Project is for everyone and invites everyone to be nothing but themselves. Regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation, all are welcome to sing and dance along as the Boy Band Project performs the hits of the era and genre with the polish of the cast members’ years on stage in New York musical theater. Since they formed in 2014 the Boy Band Project has sprung out of New York City and toured nationwide as well on Atlantis Cruises and at the O2 Academy in London. And now the Boy Band Project returns to Provincetown for a two-night-only engagement at the Crown & Anchor for Carnival Week.

The Boy Band Project has risen to such success they’ve attracted the attention of several former boy band members they emulate. The group’s popularity in New York caught the attention of a producer at Good Morning America who booked the group and surprised them on the show with a FaceTime appearance by the Backstreet Boys. The appearance on the show led to an invitation backstage at the 1990s pop phenomenon’s 2018 reunion show in Central Park as part of Good Morning America’s Summer Concert Series. The group loved what the Boy Band Project was doing. But the real surprise came when they were playing a run at the Palm Cabaret in Puerto Vallarta. Former NSYNC member Lance Bass came to see the show, and as can happen from time to time in Mexico, the electricity went out in the middle of the show. There was enough juice in the generator to run the sound system. And at that moment Bass stood up and told everyone in attendance to take out their phones and turn on their flashlights so the show could continue, illuminated by the audience.

“We were freaking out enough he was there and then the lights went out,” says Nesbitt. “But he helped save the show. He came backstage after and told us how much he loved it. We started to freak out even more.”

The Boy Band Project performs at the Crown & Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, Wednesday, August 18 and Thursday, August 19 at 6 p.m. Tickets ($35) are available at the box office and online at onlyatthecrown.com. For more information call 508.487.1430.