Photo of Max Vernon by Sophie Anita
The UpStairs Lounge Fire, a 1973 arson attack at a New Orleans gay bar that killed 32 people, remains the deadliest massacre in U.S. LGBT history. Now creative polymath Max Vernon has taken inspiration from the event for a musical theater event, titled The View UpStairs.
“It’s shocking to me that most people have never heard of the UpStairs Lounge Fire, given its significance,” Vernon says. “Even as a queer studies major, the fire was never mentioned in any of my classes. Now, with the recent violence and hate crimes occurring around NYC, it feels more important than ever to tell this story and reclaim this event.”
The concert performance of the musical takes place June 24 at the Living Room in the Lower East Side of New York City, which also happens to be the 40th anniversary of the fire and features top talent, including Michael McElroy (Big River, The Wild Party, Rent), Nathan Lee Graham (The Wild Party, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Zoolander), Katie Thompson (Big Fish, Giant), Blake Daniel (Spring Awakening, Hello Again), Doreen Montalvo (Giant, In the Heights), Andrew Durand (War Horse, Spring Awakening, Yank!), MJ Rodriguez (Rent), and Rania Salem Manganaro (Hit the Wall).
Nathan Lee Graham, who was last seen Off-Broadway in Hit the Wall, said he's excited since it's the first time he and Michael McElroy have worked together since The Wild Party, and the role of "Willie" was written especially for him. "The music is quite fantastic. Max Vernon's score is wonderful," Graham says. "He's really got a bright future ahead."
Listen to "Sex on Legs" below: