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‘The View Upstairs’ Is the Queer Musical America Needs Right Now

Before Pulse, there was the Upstairs Lounge.
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Musical theatre is pretty gay. There’s a reason that gay men are stereotyped to all love musicals and that the lesbian-centric Fun Home won Best Musical.

But with the exception of RENT, which touched on the spread of AIDS among gay and gender-nonconforming men, musical theatre tends to gloss over the darker parts of gay history. Want to watch a queer cross between Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Wizard of Oz?

Welcome to Straight Outta Oz. Want to date the gay book characters you fell in love with as a teenager? Catch a run of Normativity.

But if you want to look at the darker parts of gay history, like the dozens of devastating mass killings of LGBT people, then you won’t find that on stage.

Until now.

The View Upstairs is a groundbreaking musical about the devastating fire that burned down a prominent gay lounge in New Orleans in 1973. Thirty-two people died, making it the deadliest LGBT hate crime in the US until the Pulse shootings.

The musical centers on a young gay man named Wes who, through the power of magic, is transported back in time to the Upstairs Lounge, where he meets lesbians, drag queens, and gay rights pioneers.

Nearly ever show has been sold-out so far. RuPaul has enthusiastically endorsed the show, and famous people like Michael Kors have purchased tickets. Although it’s currently Off-Broadway, it will be a short leap to Broadway.

One of the best parts about the show is its racial and age diversity. The show includes aging drag queens, young gay men of color, a Latina mother figure and, of course, Henri, the black lesbian who runs the bar.

It has been hailed for doing many things: for fighting back against the whitewashing of LGBT history, for humanizing and honoring those who died at the Upstairs Lounge, for talking about a chronically underreported hate crime, and for providing a safe space for queer people to see themselves and their history.

Get tickets and learn more at the official website.

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J. Marie graduated from Duke University with a degree in International Relations and dreams of being a creative writer–dreams she’s now realizing as a musical theatre writer in NYC. She’s passionate about global black identities, black representation in media, and leather-bound notebooks. She also loves backpacking through a new country at a moment’s notice, and speaks Spanish, Swahili and Standard Arabic.

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