HOME / REVIEWSTo call "Upstairs" a success would be like calling the ocean blue: accurate, but missing a lot of scope. The show was triumphant. The world premiere of Upstairs began in New Orleans on the exact fortieth anniversary of the events which inspired it. Every show was sold out in advance, and an extra show had to be added after the Sunday matinee, just to accommodate the demand. Here's what fans and critics had to say.
Self's effort to resurrect the victims' stories amounts to an autopsy on the human soul and explores the motives of the suspected arsonist in the case, lays open the ugliness of sexual oppression and characterizes what those who died in the fire may have envisioned in the waning moments of their lives.
I was blown away. The music reflects the highly complex and emotional nature of the subject... Character disagreements pile up into musical structure that left me breathless.
It was like meeting history.
Agneau [is] played with simmering passion by Alxander Jon.
You will not experience a more purposeful and needed original musical production like this ever again. Straight from the heart of New Orleans, the city that care forgot... and which also forgot about this horrific incident until 40 years later, when Wayne Self revealed his love and talents to bring Upstairs home to us.
Upstairs is a brilliantly written play which tells the story of the largest mass murder of homosexuals in United States history in a way that is truthful in its delivery and respectful of both the victims and the survivors.
Telling those stories without letting the deaths of 32 people overshadow the action is not easy. Starting from before the tragedy and following a trajectory through the violence of the arson, the grief and the possibility of redemption is a lot of ground to cover. Self is ambitious in the breadth of issues he raises.