"The View Upstairs," A New Musical by Max Vernon - Will's New York Nite Life
"The View Upstairs," A New Musical by Max Vernon
Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project
45 Bleecker Street, (212) 925-1806
This fast-moving and highly-engaging one act musical turns history into fantasy and then brings it all back to reality in a meaningful way. We time travel, rather literally, from the present day back to a gay bar in New Orleans in 1973, for a visceral illustration as to how much has changed in terms of human rights – and sadly, how much hasn’t. The drama centers on an event that was the worst mass murder of homosexuals in US history – a record that should have been allowed to stand, but was, even more unfortunately, eclipsed by the Pulse Orlando shooting of 2016. The score is exceptional – this is one of those shows where you walk out and the first thing you want to do when you get home is listen to the cast album – but the cast is equally good and the storytelling is vivid and not at all preachy or didactic. As far as star turns go, you’d have to travel a long way before you find a performance to equal that of Nathan Lee Graham, whose “eleventh hour number” turns out to be a spoken monologue delivered with all the flamboyant energy of a Broadway show-stopper. (To delve into 1970s African-American cultural icons, he plays “Willie” like two Flip Wilson characters, Geraldine and Reverend Leroy, of The Church of What’s Happening Now, rolled into one individual.) As a straight man, I found it all very moving and uplifting, even while I was laughing and tapping my feet.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL & VANITY FAIR, and reviews current shows for THE OBSERVER and THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of eight books including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)