‘The View UpStairs’ Sparkles, Sizzles, Scores

Off-Broadway Musical Explores LGBTQ Fight for Equality

The cast of "The View UpStairs" (Courtesy of Invisible Wall Productions)

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.

About D. Kevin McNeir – Washington Informer Editor 158 Articles

Award-winning journalist, book editor, voice-over specialist and author with 17 years in the industry. Currently an education and religion beat reporter for The Washington Informer. But I also tackle local (D.C. and Maryland) politics, entertainment, business and health articles to maintain my edge.

Born and raised in Motown and a staunch Wolverine – that is a graduate of the University of Michigan, I left corporate America (IBM) to pursue my passion for writing, accepting a beat reporter’s gig under the tutelage of the late Sam Logan, founding publisher of the Michigan Chronicle. I continued to hone my craft at N’DIGO Magapaper, Windy City Times and The Wednesday Journal, all in Chicagoland; the Atlanta Voice and The Miami Times. I’ve been fortunate to be chosen twice as the Feature Writer of the Year by the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Later, as the senior editor of one of the country’s oldest Black-owned newspapers, The Miami Times, I helped my staff bring home the NNPA’s highest honor – Publication of the Year, 2001. That same year I picked up first and second place awards for news and feature writing, respectively, also from the NNPA.

Today I’m based in the nation’s capital where I’m honored to serve as the editor for The Washington Informer. Recognizing the importance of education, I’ve earned two master’s degrees from Emory University, Summa Cum Laude and Princeton Theological Seminary, majoring in theology and philosophy.

If I can slow down, I may actually complete and publish a collection of essays I’ve been working on for many years, “Growing up Motown,” sharing childhood memories of experiences with musical legends like Marvin Gaye, Kim Weston, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Gladys Knight and Take Six. My favorite foods: spinach, lasagna, pancakes and Oysters Rockefeller. My mom, 86, always my “best friend” and “cheerleader,” now lives with me and she brings me great joy. I’m a fiercely protective yet encouraging father and grandfather always down for traveling, shopping or celebrating the natural beauty of God’s world. I live by the following words: “Less is more” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You can reach me on Twitter (@dkevinmcneir), Facebook (Kevin McNeir) or via e-mail, mcneirdk@washingtoninformer.com