The View Upstairs imagines a dialogue between the pioneers of the LGBT + community and today's - apparently selfish - gender-specific millennials. It takes place in a series of songs ranging from soft rock to disco to glamor. They offer some curious observations about what has been improving for the community since the 1970s and what is not the right to be themselves.
Internet influencer and conflicting fashion designer Wes (Tyrone Huntley) fled New York to New Orleans in 2017. He bought a building, but he either mixed his citalopram with his cocaine or caught himself in 1973 in a time warp. The building he bought was the site of a largely forgotten arson attack on the gay bar UpStairs Lounge, which caused the death of 32 people. It was the deadliest attack on the LGBT + community until the attack on the Orlando Pulse nightclub.
Wes should be unlikely, but Huntley plays the role with a mixture of hubris and vulnerability that puts you on his side right from the start. The line of regulars who visited the Upstairs Lounge (tense bar owner and grumpy lesbian Henri, construction worker / drag queen Freddy and seemingly innocent Patrick) comes alive and follows Wes. And everyone has a song. Just as well, these songs are catchy and funny.
As the show nears its bleak end, it seems to run out of steam as it tries to juggle too many worthy topics. But it's refreshing to see a new musical in the West End that's not a revival or based on a movie or series of pop songs we've heard before. Instead, there is only one hard-working ensemble of actors on a show that offers a critical look at our progress.
The View Upstairs, Soho Theater, Dean Street, W1D 3NE, £ 10 - £ 19.50, until August 24, 2019.
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