★★★★ | The View UpStairs At Soho Theatre “a story everyone should hear!”
Where: Soho Theatre
Review date: Tuesday 23rd July 2019
About the Show:
The musical opens in present-day when Wes, a young fashion designer buys an abandoned space, not realising this had been the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ’70s gay bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. In 1973, the UpStairs Lounge was burned down in an arson attack, killing 32 people. Making this the worst attack on the LGBTQ+ community until the 2016 shooting at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Encore Rating Factor:
The View UpStairs is currently playing at the Soho Theatre with book, music and lyrics by Max Vernon. This musical brings to life the tragic true stories of the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans in 1973. As the saying goes – If these walls could talk! and the walls of the UpStairs Lounge have some stories to tell.
The View UpStairs opens with the UpStairs Lounge bar rising from the ashes. We are quickly transported back to the land of bell-bottom jeans and polyester suits. The energy hits the audience with a bang in the opening number ‘Some Kind of Paradise’, flicking bar lights then reference the end of the tragic tale. The story snaps back into 2019 where we met Wes; a young fashion designer / social influencer who is trying to make his way in the world.
During the number ‘#Householdname’, it is clear that Wes relies on drugs to get through the troubled world of 2019. It’s Wes’ reliance on drugs that is the springboard that transports him (and us) back to 1973. The story plays out in real-time and action takes place within one bar setting.
The View UpStairs is very much an ensemble that beautifully showcases as many true stories as possible. Each character has a song that helps expand their story and gives this powerhouse band of performers their opportunity to shine. It would be wrong of me to focus on just one performer as each member of the company truly sparkles in this production.
Fabian Aloise’s choreography fills the very limited space of the Soho Theatre beautifully. Director Jonathan O’Boyle keeps the pace of this bustling 1973 bar while not detracting from each character’s journey. The creative team have done a fantastic job with such an intimate venue. I feel this production needs more space and I would love to see it transfer to a larger venue.
Max Vernon has created a witty, funny and emotional musical. A musical that doesn’t hide away from questioning both ideologies of the 1970s and today. This musical makes you think and question your own choices quite a lot. Vernon has not only created an intelligent book, but the music is also well written with each song having its own vibe. I must reference that it is Patrick’s final soliloquy that packs a punch and really hits home the horrific ending.
The View UpStairs shares a tragic story that sadly is so relevant today. It highlights how much we all have to work to achieve true equality across all communities from sexuality to race and religion.
I am so pleased that Max Vernon has created The View UpStairs not only to share these stories but to humanise and remember the victims of this disastrous attack. Although the end of this story is dark, the musical itself is uplifting, empowering, and a story everyone should hear!