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If you can sneak away to New York City for an evening at the theater, you may want to consider heading down to Bleecker Street and catching “The View UpStairs” for its off-Broadway run at The Lynn Redgrave Theater.
The first thing that will grab your attention is the staging of this fast-paced show. The entire theatre has been transformed into a vibrant 70s gay bar located in the French Quarter of New Orleans — and you are in the club. Actors saunter over to patrons — sitting on laps, pulling up chairs, offering drinks and sharing the banter reminiscent of one out on the town.
What makes this concept work is the way we — the audience — feel more like participants rather than observers.
As the play unfolds, we get to meet some of the colorful characters who made the UpStairs Lounge their home and their refuge. They are a forgotten community that receives a new lease on life when a young fashion designer from 2017 buys the abandoned space. What follows is an exciting journey spanning two generations with each character slowly revealing their own personal history as a member of the LGBTQ community and how they have come to accept themselves, their desires and their sexuality, despite the attacks from outside.
The actors, who sing and dance to a funky, ’70s disco-infused beat, are a wonderful collection of accomplished thespians who succeed in becoming the characters they’ve been chosen to portray.
I loved Frenchie Davis (Henri), Jeremy Pope (Wes), Michael Longoria (Freddy) and Nancy Ticotin (Inez) but in truth, every actor finds a way to grab us by our heartstrings.
The end of the musical will shock you. In fact, it actually brought me to tears as I considered yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man. The play, much to my surprise, traces its inspiration to one of the most significant yet summarily ignored attacks against the LGBTQ community, ending in the deaths of innocent men and women. Their crime? Seeking to live their lives on their terms.
Max Vernon, the writer, director Scott Ebersold, choreographer Al Blackstone and James Dobson, music supervisor and orchestrator have combined their talents and produced a show that you won’t forget.
Often the past can serve as a guide when we confront times of uncertainty. Today, in light of the push back against rights only recently extended to the LGBTQ community, this show helps us remember both the gains and losses in their fight for equality in America.
See “The View UpStairs.” Then go see it again.