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BWW Review: A Stellar Cast Belts Their Hearts Out for I AM WOMAN at Feinstein's/54 Below

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BWW Review: A Stellar Cast Belts Their Hearts Out for I AM WOMAN at Feinstein's/54 Below

Feinstein's/54 Below, NYC, February 23rd, 2020

Jen Sandler, Emerson Steele and Kelly Lamor Wilson put together a dynamite show to celebrate female empowerment a couple weeks ahead of International Women's Day. They brought together a massive cast that held their heads high and defiantly showcased their unique talents on stage. Whether it was Charlotte Maltby's slightly quirky, "Grace Kelly" or Laura Bell Bundy's differently quirky, "Digital Disease," or Annie Golden's emphatic, warrior anthem, "White Picket Fence," each song and performance added a dimension to the overall performance that was like fitting pieces to a puzzle.

The first three mentioned shows all had distinctly unique elements that in many ways demonstrate that there is no one way to be a woman. For example, Laura Bell Bundy took the stage in a sparkling pink suit, then got her Instagram-live feed ready before belting out a truly epic future hit from her upcoming 2020 CD release called "Digital Disease." Funny, real, and sarcastic, it prods and pokes at the Instagram-social media culture that's affecting the way woman view themselves and treat themselves. As she sang lyrics like, "Fill this post with lies," and "Swipe up to buy this product now," she pulled out breast pads, butt pads, and unbuttoned her suit jacket to reveal the equivalent of a modern corset before tossing pills out to the audience while the spotlight and life feed were on.

BWW Review: A Stellar Cast Belts Their Hearts Out for I AM WOMAN at Feinstein's/54 Below

The song was fun at the time, but starkly relevant in the light of day. Especially when portrayed alongside stories like Charlotte's, a woman who characterized herself as being a little bit of a misfit and sometimes not feeling comfortable being a little weirder than others might like. As she moseyed on stage with arms flailing, it became clear that she was no longer afraid to be something unexpected, and the song, "Grace Kelly" truly fit her especially when she sang, "I could be brown, I could be blue, I could be violet sky." However the song went, the stiffness or the shiftiness, or the way in which she moved accented the lyrics and her own personal story well. Well done.

I've seen Annie Golden perform four or five times, at least, at this point, and I'm always impressed. Her original song though, "White Picket Fence" was by far my favorite song/performance (that I've had the privilege to see) of hers. After she called out statistics about the dangers of being a woman, women still face today, she implored the audience in her black leather jacket and pants, "Where the Hell is the White Picket Fence?" She was tough, and there was clearly no messing with her, or with any of the other women on stage.

BWW Review: A Stellar Cast Belts Their Hearts Out for I AM WOMAN at Feinstein's/54 BelowTwo other thrilling performances from cast members were done by none other than the leaders of the troop themselves. The individual songs by Kelly Lamor Wilson and Emerson Steele were smashing successes. Wilson took on the Sara Bareilles power anthem, "Armor," which fits well within a show about supporting other women, with lines like, "To all my sisters and all our friends/strength means blessed with an enemy." And as if sisters, Wilson and Steele have shared a lot of memories and challenges together, which brought them to collaborating with Feinstein's/54 Below Original Programming Producer, Jen Sandler on this show. On a night when every woman gave a little bit of themselves prior to singing their song, Steele seemed to shed the burden of expectations before belting out a song that said the same in "My House." The lines, "There's nowhere I would rather be/It isn't much, but it's enough for me," in all their belted bravado said all that she needed to say, in words, clear pitch, and volume.

The depth of the performances, and the quality of the cast did not end there. One of my favorite performers from the rest of the cast was Brynn Williams who performed alongside another well-known performer and former roommate, Allie Trimm. Despite all these songs and stellar performances however, it was "There's Gotta Be Something Better Than This" sung by Lauren Echausse, Katya Ferrer, and Murphy Taylor Smith that's still stuck in my head days later. These ladies and others continued to be impressive all evening. After an impressive start on a Carole King medley sung by Addyson Bell, Viv Helvajin (loved her aura and pink hair), Sophia Introna, and Erika Reyes, it was only fitting that the show would end just as or even more impressively. The three successive performances of Diana Huey, Ali Ewoldt, and Laura Steele were a stalwart set to end the evening as Laura Steele's "She Used to Be Mine," captured the evenings sentiment of not letting go of one's self in the pursuit of life.

The band was made up of Ben Caplan, who provided musical direction and the piano work, Lloyd Kikoler on bass, Jakob Reinhardt on guitar, and Scott Still on drums. And before I forget the show was donating proceeds in support of the Double Standards initiative in connection with the Little Words Project. Bracelets sold by Little Words will benefit the Double Standards project and say "I am Woman."

Photo credits to Katy Beth Barber (@KBarberPhotography)

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From This Author Chris Struck