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The View Upstairs
a Musical
by Max Vernon

COMPANY : Out Front Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Brady Street Theater [WEBSITE]
ID# 5380

SHOWING : October 25, 2018 - November 10, 2018



With book, music and lyrics by Max Vernon, "The View Upstairs" tells the story of Wes, a young fashion designer from 2018, who buys an abandoned building in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Upon entering the space, he finds himself transported to the UpStairs Lounge, a vibrant ‘70s gay bar. As this forgotten community comes to life, Wes embarks on an exhilarating journey of self-exploration that spans two generations of queer history.

Director Paul Conroy
Richard Justin Dilley
Buddy Tony Hayes
Willie Trevor Perry
Henri Keena Redding-Hunt
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Smoke and Mirrored Sequins
by playgoer
Sunday, November 18, 2018
In the scenic design of Paul Conroy and Charles Swift for Out Front Theatre Company, "The View Upstairs" shows us a worn-looking ministry outreach/gay club in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Ratty curtains flank the three windows up right, with views to the metal bars outside the windows. "Fire Exit" doors are left and right. Up left is a bar with minimal liquor showing. There’s a purple baby grand piano up right and a collection of tables and chairs down left. The walls are covered with patterned wallpaper and various decorations, with celebrity photos attached to the front of the bar. Above it all is a collection of chandeliers that have seen better days and a poster of the nude Burt Reynolds. It’s not an inviting place, but a place that looks like home to the denizens of the club.

Populating the ministry/club in 1973 are preacher Richard (Justin Dilley), bar owner Henri (Keena Redding Hunt), married/closeted pianist Buddy (Tony Hayes), and a host of regulars. There’s drag queen Freddy (Quinn Xavier Hernandez) and his supportive latina mother Inez (Felicia Hernandez), aged black queen Willie (Trevor Perry, who is far too young and far too heavy for the role, but does wonders with the part), ostracized gay hustler Dale (John Henry Ward), and well-loved hustler Patrick (Byron Wigfall). They’re accosted at one point by a cop (Jamie Smith). That makes up the 1973 cast.

The storyline adds Wes (Kyle Larkins) into the mix. He’s a gay designer from the present day who has bought the burned-out hulk of the building after viewing it with a realtor (Ms. Hernandez in a wig and dim lighting). He takes some cocaine and is then magically transported to the club in 1973. He falls in love with a hustler there, but the dream ends with a fatal fire in the club (based on an actual incident, nicely documented in the program). At the end we see Wes conversing with a kindly cop (also Mr. Smith), emphasizing how treatment of gays has changed between 1973 and now, which seems to be the main point of the show.

The tuneful, if not memorable, rock score by Max Vernon keeps things moving, and Nick Silvestri’s musical direction makes the numbers effective. The musical accompaniment is first-rate (better than the singing in general), but sound levels tend to let the accompaniment drown out solo vocals. Choreography is minimal, blending with director Paul Conroy’s blocking to seem very off-the-cuff.

Jay Reynolds’ costume design is a highlight of the show. Some very-1970’s fashions are on display, and a "Sound of Music"/"Gone with the Wind" curtain transformation takes center stage. Visually, the show is appealing, but Charles I. Swift’s lighting design creates some dim locations that can be distracting when actors enter and then leave them. Lighting for the night and fire scenes is effective.

Even so, Out Front’s production of "The View Upstairs" doesn’t catch fire. The whole thing seems a bit tired and preachy. Performances and vocals are adequate, but they’re generally on the level of Max Mattox’s fight choreography, which seems a tad stagey and uninspired. Gay club life is typically assumed to tend toward the fabulous, but emphasis on the downtrodden state of gays in 1973 overwhelms any incipient fabulousness in the script. It’s not very touching, and far more informative than fun. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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