Tag Archives: Cedric Neal

The View Upstairs

Soho Theatre

The View Upstairs

The View Upstairs

Soho Theatre

Reviewed – 25th July 2019



“It does all become a touch stereo-typed, and the crying scenes lead too predictably into the love scenes”


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the uprising at the Stonewall Inn in New York; widely considered to be the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights. We have come a long way as a society since then, but Max Vernon argues in the musical “The View Upstairs” that we still have a long way to go. He spearheads his argument by sending the central character Wes (Tyrone Huntley) back in time to 1973, overlapping past and present. We are reminded of the television series, ‘Life on Mars’ as Vernon’s script makes frequent use of jokes and dramatic irony about a future that the audience already knows, but which the characters of 1973 do not.

Sometimes the device works too well, and we are left with an overpowering sense of nostalgia for the past that conflicts with the intended message of the piece. Wes, a present-day fashion designer, is buying a burnt out building in New Orleans and, for reasons that are not remotely touched upon, he is transported back in time and he finds himself in the Upstairs Lounge; a real-life gay bar that was the target of a homophobic arson attack that took the lives of thirty-two people – the deadliest attack in the U.S. until the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, but one which was ignored by the wider American media and public.

The musical is a celebration of the regulars of the bar – a disparate band of odd folk sharing drinks and wisecracks in a kind of queer ‘Cheers’. Lee Newby’s lavishly ramshackle set evokes perfectly the time and territory we are in. As does Vernon’s score which is snappy and uplifting and, although not exactly memorable, stirs memories within ourselves. Presiding over the bar is John Partridge’s ‘Buddy’, the resident pianist who becomes ‘straight’ whenever he goes home to his wife and kids. Partridge cleverly conveys the mixture of resentment, embarrassment and liberation of the closet gay of that time. Other stand-outs are Garry Lee’s Freddy; burly builder by day and drag queen by night, and his biggest fan – his mother (a very watchable Victoria Hamilton-Barritt). Love interest Patrick, played by Andy Mientus, gives Huntley’s Wes a run for his money, while Declan Bennett’s bitter Dale injects a much-needed dose of menace. It does all become a touch stereo-typed, and the crying scenes lead too predictably into the love scenes. But we are eventually shaken out of any sense of complacency towards the final scenes, especially if you don’t know all the historical facts beforehand.

But what carries the show are the performances. A lot of numbers are packed into this one act musical but the energy and vocal agility of all the cast provide the spark that sets this piece ablaze, despite the dampening effects of some over-familiar moralising.


Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Darren Bell


The View Upstairs

Soho Theatre until 24th August


Previously reviewed at this venue:
No Show | ★★★★ | January 2019
Garrett Millerick: Sunflower | ★★★★ | February 2019
Soft Animals | ★★★★ | February 2019
Angry Alan | ★★★★ | March 2019
Mouthpiece | ★★★ | April 2019
Tumulus | ★★★★ | April 2019
William Andrews: Willy | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Does My Bomb Look Big In This? | ★★★★ | May 2019
Hotter | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Citysong | ★★★★ | June 2019


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I Wish my Life Were Like a Musical – 5 Stars


I Wish my Life Were Like a Musical

Live at Zedel

Reviewed – 15th August 2018


“impeccable vocal agility, faultlessly-measured interpretation and just enough audience engagement”


Musical theatre has long been a defining part of West End nightlife. Shows of all genres come and go – classics, new creations, film adaptations and jukebox musicals – but always with the glossy, brightly-lit image of the actors, singers and dancers and the glamorous lives they seem to live. Alexander S. Bermange’s revue ‘I Wish My Life Were Like A Musical’ is an antidote to this glittering, colourful illusion. His inventive, comic songs with their witty lyrics take us backstage through the trials and tribulations of starting out, the bitter sweetness of working on stage and the adrenalin and emotion which make it all worthwhile.

Cosily hidden on its lower floor, Brasserie Zedel offers us an intimate, cabaret-bar venue for this peep into the personal reality of these performers. We sit in the dimly-lit, carmine-coloured glow; Bermange takes his place at the piano; the singers appear and make their way round the tables, setting a satirical scene and kicking off the evening with ‘The Opening Number’, cleverly concocted from well-known opening numbers of shows.

During the songs that follow we are delighted and dazzled by four impressive voices, each distinctive but blending beautifully together. Madalena Alberto and Suzie Mathers stun us with power and sensitivity, Cedric Neal’s smooth tones take some surprising technical turns and we are charmed by Lucas Rush’s lyrical expression. With impeccable vocal agility, faultlessly-measured interpretation and just enough audience engagement, they tell of the precarious career path with ‘Audition’, ‘Guest Spot’ and ‘The Diva’s in the House’, as well as anecdotal tales such as ‘The Key Problems’, ‘The Kiss’ and ‘When a Fan Loves a Woman’. They shape scenarios and characters to describe the obsessive nature of performers with their remedies and routines, the hard work behind the scenes, awkward moments, pleasant surprises and the ultimate magical feeling.

Derek Bond’s direction of these four talented and experienced artists and Bermange’s original insight into the world of showbiz make this classy pastiche a welcome alternative to the blockbuster blowout.


Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington

Photography by Danny Kaan


I Wish my Life Were Like a Musical

Live at Zedel until 26th August


Previously reviewed at this venue
Liza Pulman Sings Streisand | ★★★★ | March 2018
The Clementine Show | ★★★★ | July 2018


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