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Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below

#marchonbroadway presents a spectacular spectacle for Juneteenth.

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below

Sunday night there was a party at Feinstein's/54 Below. There is always a good time to be had in The Basement on 54th Street but this was a party, a real party. The good folks at March On Broadway presented a program titled THE FUNCTION, with the subtitle A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION. The event page on the 54 Below website described the event as "a queer-centered concert celebration of the powerful black history that is Juneteenth" and even though there was much discussion about Juneteenth, about the #marchonbroadway organization, about queer artists, about black and trans and queer and equal rights, about standing up for what is right, and doing the work to educate and inform and make change, this was still a party, a celebration of life, of joy, and of Juneteenth. Now, let's get this out of the way because there are still people who don't know what Juneteenth is (as demonstrated in an interesting video seen on the Instagram page for @bwaybelters). A simple Google search asking what Juneteenth is provides the answer, "Juneteenth is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans." All of our black brothers, sisters, and gender non-conforming family have a day of celebration, and we should all join in celebrating with them (starting by reading up on Juneteenth so we are all fully informed). When THE FUNCTION producer Jaime Cepero put together THE FUNCTION, he gathered together some of the most talented black and queer artists to be found in New York City and invited them to the party.

And what a party it was.

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below For nearly two hours, the basement at 54 Below rocked and rolled and raised the roof as, one by one, a cast of thrillingly talented artists brought their best to the concert celebration. Sharing hosting duties with (amazing) Ianne Fields Stewart, Cepero kept the crowd upbeat and excited, in the moment, and maintaining a fine balance of the celebratory nature of the evening with socio-political commentary. Occasions came when some artists chose to speak out on weighty topics, while others focused on keeping it bright and festive, but the discussion of important facts and figures and tales of truth didn't slow down the action of the night, didn't lessen the party vibe. Indeed, talks about the March On Broadway movement from Nattalyee Randall, and on the imbalance of equity in show business from Davon Williams were inspiring and uplifting, as praise was preached for the work that's been done, and as calls came for the work that remains to do. Between the musical performances and the speeches spoken, this was not only one of the most entertaining concerts ever to play 54 Below, it was one of the most important. It would, in fact, not be a far stretch of the imagination to envision these actors of such high caliber coming together for more shows throughout the year, not just on Juneteenth - perhaps as fundraisers for the organizations they support, or maybe just to keep their individual and collective talents and voices in the spotlight, for they all deserve it.

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below With Musical Director Darnell White leading the way from behind the keyboard, the amazing band of musicians gave full support to the singers as they performed everything from Prince to Patty Griffin, from Billie Holiday to The Bee Gees, with a little original material thrown in for good measure, here and there. Indeed, one of the evening highlights was Khalifa White's fierce rendering of her own composition "You OK? (Black Girl)" - a song and a performance that shine a light on a future concert career for the current star of Little Shop Of Horrors. And no matter what the choice of material from artist to artist, the atmosphere stayed consistently optimistic and energetic, whether the audience was watching Jada Valenciaga stamp the stage in her best strut during "Just Chill," reveling in all of the Alex Newell magic, or seeing Michael Fisher bring the house down with a stunning "Georgia On My Mind." Particular highlights, though, were Michael Wordly's passionate and perfect "Strange Fruit/Star-Spangled Banner" and Jade Jones's deliciously dramatic "How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore?" but there can be no denying that Darnell White, himself, was especially heavenly, using that ready-for-radio voice of his on Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need Of Love." Darnell is one of the most beloved men in the industry, and rightly so because he is the biggest ball of love ever to be in any room, something plainly visible when he is conducting (his adoration of the artists is brighter than the sun), but he is also one of the best performers we have. Whether singing his own compositions or those of others, his work as a pianist and vocalist is the kind that turns an artist into a star, and while it is a boon to any show to have Darnell Musical Directing, it is a treat, any time he raises that gorgeous voice in song. Just. Have mercy.

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below

Producer Cepero, working alongside March On Broadway creators Nattalyee Randall and Courtney Daniels, used his devotion to this work and his show business savvy (as both actor and musician) to build a beautiful evening of entertainment, celebration, and social consciousness, all the while doing double duty as onstage host and provocative performer. He and the entire FUNCTION company are to be commended for one of the best group shows this writer has, yet, seen. It would be a privilege to support, in any way possible, any of their future endeavors. Here's hoping there are many other future endeavors. Not only do we need the endeavors and the artists, this is their time - indeed, it is well past their time.

The marvelous musicians for THE FUNCTION were Darnell White on piano, Samantha Horton on guitar, Sean Murphy on bass, and Orion Turr on drums.

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

Follow Nattalyee Randall on Instagram @50milerunforjusticeprotest, Courtney Daniels on Instagram @ascended_lynne, and Jamie Cepero on Instagram @papimagic. Davon Williams can be found on Instagram @daywilling.

Ianne Fields Stewart has created @TheOkraProject - an organization that helps feed and house black trans people in need.

Follow the #MarchOnBroadway - a grassroots collective of black artists that are working to change the landscape in the Broadway community and uplift artists from marginalized communities.

Read about the March On Broadway In THIS Broadway World Article and HERE, as well.

Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Alphonse Horne
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Samantha Horne and Sean Murphy
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Jada Valenciaga
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Michael Fisher
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Jade Jones
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Khalifa White
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Ianne Fields Stewart
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
J. Hoard backed by Sean Murphy and Orion Turr
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Kristina Nicole Miller
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Jaime Cepero
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Nattalyee Randall
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Darnell White
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Michael Wordly
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Jay Jurden
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Davon Williams
Review: THE FUNCTION: A JUNETEENTH CONCERT CELEBRATION  Is The Living End At Feinstein's/54 Below
Alex Newell

Photos by Stephen Mosher


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From This Author - Stephen Mosher