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Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Two years later, the second edition of a smash-hit show gets a chance to come into the light.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

If anything was proved at Wednesday's FRIENDSGIVING show at Feinstein's/54 Below, it is that Kevin Lamar Ferguson is the most promising new producer on the club and concert scene today. He attacks everything, from an abundantly generous cast list to his emcee duties, with gusto, heart, passion, and absolute fearlessness. Like a couturier sewing Monroe or Dietrich into a nude gown, Kevin squeezed more talent onto the 54 Below stage than one might think possible, from singers to musicians, from a seven-foot-tall Patti LaBelle impersonator to a boy band. It was an almost overwhelming amount of talent, all of it enjoyable, and though it did render the concert longer than some trips to the picture show, having more live entertainment for your dollar is something that no club-goer can really be expected to complain about. The entire experience, from start to finish, was something for which the patrons of 54 Below could be Thankful.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Kevin Ferguson

K-Ferg was quick to point out, at the start of the evening, that this show (the full title of which was THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II) had nothing to do with Thanksgiving, that Thanksgiving was the next day, that this day was about Friendsgiving. And as such, the Friendsgiving show was all about his beautiful circle of friends, his chosen family, the one that comes with being either gay, a naturalized New Yorker, in show business, or any combination thereof. For Ferguson - whose production company is aptly named The Kevin Ferg & Friends Company - the ability to and joy of making art with people who are important to him obviously leads his mission statement. The evening's cast was an ensemble of beautiful black and brown and white and gay and straight and fluid and female folks, each of them given a solo, a lip-sync, a duet, and (for seven lucky artists) a 54 Below debut. Performing only songs that leaned into the theme of friendship, the nearly-twenty musical artists glittered, shined, and sung out into the night air, with Kevin Ferg hopping up and down, on and off the stage, in various fashion-forward outfits, to introduce the gang. Although the vocal stylings and range of abilities from artist to artist differed, there could be no denying that each performer had a right to be on the stage, for all were either gifted vocalists, talented storytellers, or a mixture of both, with Christopher Brasfield and Kariana Sanchez scoring high marks early in the evening with (respectively) "I'll Be Here" from Lippa's Wild Party and "You've Got A Friend" - perhaps the most famous friendship song of all time.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Elizabeth Adabale & Zenni Corbin

It has been two years since Mr. Ferguson presented his original Friendsgiving show and, had he been allowed to continue his producing path on the timeline that he had intended for himself, he would have discovered some of the finer points of curating a concert like this. At this juncture, the enthusiastic young impresario has a couple of things to learn, and, if this writer might make one or two constructive suggestions, I might offer that more consideration could have been put into the running order of the show. Sweet faced, sweet-voiced, sweet-natured Chris Sanders had to perform a quiet, tender "True Colors" right after Shaq Hester's epic (if somewhat self-indulgent) gospel-infused "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" - it was an uncomfortable amount of pressure to put on Mr. Sanders, pressure which could have been alleviated by bringing the energy down to a more natural level with Devin Price's "Count on Me" or a lovely and heartfelt "That's What Friends Are For" by Alyssa Fay Smith. A concert like this requires a rise and fall of energy, but to go from Hester's number to Sanders' was a Black Diamond ski drop.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II The second suggestion for Mr. Ferguson's ear is that he might be more economic with his own voice. With five musical numbers of his own, Kevin was doing some pretty heavy lifting. Added to a wealth of spoken dialogue, introducing guests, playing with the audience, showcasing his fabulosity, by the time Kevin got to his fourth song "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out", he was visibly and vocally exhausted. Like the true professional and bonafide divo that he is, during his next few minutes off-stage, he changed into his most stunning 'stume of the night and dug deep inside of himself, to a place that every singer knows and understands, in order to finish the night with what was arguably his personal best of the evening, a hard-driving rock and roll arrangement of "With A Little Help From My Friends." With that song and his rainbow-fringe jacket ending the night, Kevin Ferguson sent his audience home sated and elated.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Aside from Kevin Ferg's Herculean efforts as producer, emcee, and entertainer, the unquestionable triumphs of the evening were Alyson Snyder and Elizabeth Adabale, the former stepping completely out of the shadow of Barbra Streisand with an unusually perfect "People" and the latter bringing an energy-infused audience to their quietest and most beatific place with a "No One Is Alone" worthy of being the finale of her own solo show. The ladies owe a debt of gratitude to Ferguson for putting them up on the stage, but the audience owes Kevin an even greater thank you, for introducing them to two new artists whose names were, immediately, memorized and put into a Google alert.

And THAT, Kevin Ferguson, is what a producer does: introduce new talent by way of an on-stage spectacular.

Mission accomplished.

The FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS band was "The Funky Fresh Express" and made up of Mark Beyer (guitar), Ben Covello (synth), Evan Hyde (drums), Osei Kweku (bass), and Musical Director Maestro Darnell White on piano.

Find great shows to see at the 54 Below website HERE.

Visit the Kevin Ferg and Friends Company website HERE.

The Friendsgiving Leftovers Vol. II cast gets a five out of five microphones rating for performing their entire show without the use of a lyric sheet, tablet, or music stand.

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Kariana Sanchez
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Steven Isaac Rice
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Alyson Snyder
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Shaq Hester
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Chris Sanders
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Alyssa Fay Smith
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Spouses Darnell White and David LaMarr perform "For Good" from WICKED
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Patti LaBelle, as portrayed by...
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Jasmin Van Wales
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Devin Price
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
The Boy Band Project
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Back-up Singer Zenni Corbin gets a solo.
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Jasmin Van Wales and Kevin Ferg
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Elizabeth Adabale
Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II
Michael Reid

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Review: Thankful Feinstein's/54 Below Crowd Ovates THE FRIENDSGIVING LEFTOVERS VOL. II

Photos by Stephen Mosher



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