Photo Credit: Elad Ness – UNITED Photography

Women Who March
Feinstein’s 54 Below
March 7, 2019  9:30PM

Women Who March featured songs from (mostly) female artists. Seen last year at The Duplex-this cast of ten with Ashley Ryan on the piano and Melissa Ahern on guitar, filled Feinstein’s with song and the sense of intimacy and trust that storytelling and song can invoke.

Produced by Sarah Burke and Hayley Ardizonni, the evening was a group effort where each performer had a chance to share their story and musical ability. Noticeably, the only person who didn’t tell their story was the guitarist! The evening began with a rousing group number If I Dare (Nicholas Brittei, Sara Bareilles). From the outset, the audience could feel the camaraderie of the group and the great range of voices, sizes and backgrounds of the 12 women on stage.

The stories of the women told of their personal struggles with mental health, trauma, coming out, and finding their place in the world. They were not attempting to create perfect, polished cabaret personas, although all of the performers brought a professionalism to their public and personal self-exploration. At times the opulence of the room brought the true to life stories of the performers of sexual abuse and brushes with suicide into stark contrast but it also supported the overall message of the evening that these women were “works in progress” that were worthy of celebration just as they were.

The song choices ranged from Sarah Bareilles, whose songs were heard three times in the evening, to Bob Dyan and Stephen Schwartz, the latter two definitely not women, but their songs were told from a distinctly female perspective. The first soloist of the evening, Angelica Toledo, told one of the more upbeat stories of the evening. She spoke of her Latin roots, her connection to the women who brought her to where she is in her life, and the experience of being a young Latin women in NY Theatre. She sang an Alicia Keys song Superwoman with spirit and style.

Each of the singers had their moment to shine but some of the standout moments that I observed where D’yshe Mansfield’s story of her struggles with her darkness leading into You Say by Lauren Daigle, Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram. Mansfield’s strong clear voice and pure upper register were well suited for the song. As a listener, I felt pulled into the song and story she told. Ring of Keys by Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home) showed off Mackenzie Dade’s pretty, facile voice. Bettina Lobo spoke of the struggles of the people in her native Venezuala and sang Beautiful City (Godspell) by Stephen Schwartz, beautifully. She moved well and her voice had a depth of spirit that worked well with her sunny, light demeanor and appearance. The pianist and musical director for the evening, Ashley Ryan, told a poignant tale of her struggle as a young woman to be taken seriously as a musical director and took the stage with Sara Bareille’s Armor. The producers for the evening, Hayley Ardizzoni and Sarah Burke, shared a strong onstage connection and their powerful voices in Stefani Germanotta’s Shallow. Zakiya Baptiste’s voice found its strength particularly towards the climax of Burden Down (Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Hartman, Lindy Robbins). Peiton Birsch showed off her unique vocal quality in Idon’twannabeyouanymore. (Billie and Finneas O’Connel) sung in opposition to her anxiety, which she described as a presence bigger than her.

The full house at 54 Below remained engaged and enthusiastic throughout the performance. The additional group numbers of the evening, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (Robert Hazard), Glory (John R Stevens-Lonnie R Lynn), Blowing In The Wind (Dylan), Cinderella (The Cheetah Girls), and the closing ensemble number Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken (Alecia Moore, Michael Busbee) further displayed the diversity of the group and added to the sense of support and trust so evident in these young women’s stories and music.