"The View UpStairs" follows the journey of millennial fashion designer Wes (Matthew Hancock) who, upon purchasing the building of the old UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans, is suddenly sent back in time to its final day in 1973. Throughout the musical, the audience learns alongside Wes about the members of the bar, their backstories and personalities, through scenes and solo songs. From the Mother-Son duo of Freddy (Rehyan Rivera) and Inez (Chala Savino) to the mysteriously handsome Patrick (Darren Bluestone), all the characters that find a home and community at the bar are unmistakably real in emotion and experience.
Similar to Wes's sudden arrival to the 1970's UpStairs Lounge, the audience is immediately welcomed into The Lex's intimate theater space that is charmingly transformed into the charismatic UpStairs Lounge. The set is initially enveloped in blue smoke and nostalgic tunes before the play begins and erupts into vibrant warmth once Wes travels back in time. The set decoration gives the space such a nuanced charm that it truly feels like a home to the characters inhabiting it. This makes the dichotomy between the lively scenes like the lively sermon led by Richard (Pat Towne), drag performance by Freddy, and the heartfelt theme song and the reality of the hateful world beyond their walls that creeps in all the more emotional and impacting.
The musical celebrates the lives lost at the real UpStairs Lounge bar after an arson fire and tells a story that has gone untold for a long time. The depth of the characters and the actor's portrayal of them doesn't just paint a picture of the bar's community, but also allows the audience to step into their world. By the end of the play, you cannot help but love the members of the bar, which makes their loss all the more devastating.
Wes is a charismatic and flamboyant protagonist but doesn't lack in depth at all. His emotional journey, while littered with seemingly exaggerated new-age millennial phrases (done perhaps to create a starker contrast between the two time periods), is extremely relatable. His journey seems to be about both his queer identity and his 'millennial' identity, as he laments about his desire for success and true love while proclaiming that the future is great and that his large social media following satisfies him.
The View UpStairs is a great testament to those who have come before us and the value learning about them has on not only a person, but on a society as well. The show especially pays homage to the brave queer souls that survived at a time when those around them did all they could to prevent them from doing so. It eloquently captures the joys and struggles of the LGBT+ community and the millennial experience in a fast moving ninety minutes.
"The View UpStairs" is playing at the Celebration Theatre @ The Lex (6760 Lexington Ave, West Hollywood) now until October 29th. Tickets from $25-$45. For more information, visit the Celebration Theatre's website.