A joyful return of ‘Joe Iconis & Family Live’ to NYC’s Feinstein’s/54 Below

To celebrate last month’s release of Album on Ghostlight Records, Tony-nominated writer and performer Joe Iconis (Be More Chill) and a massive mega-talented group of his collaborators and friends from the NYC stage made a triumphant return to Feinstein’s/54 Below for their first concert there since 2019. Opening on July 8, and playing three more dates through July 11, Joe Iconis & Family Live presented the nightclub’s full enthusiastic house with an epic selection of fifteen Iconis songs from the new 44-track album, past favorites, and never-before-recorded works in a stellar high-energy show that was clearly as joyous for the exuberant performers, relishing being back together on stage before a live in-person audience, as it was for their ebullient fans.

Members of the cast of Joe Iconis & Family Live. Photo by Deb Miller.

The usually talkative Iconis launched right into the opening number “Album,” with minimal commentary throughout the show, to ensure enough time for the full set list of his compelling narrative songs and his top-notch line-up of musical theater artists. The opening-night roster featured Amara Brady, Liz Lark Brown, Katrina Rose Dideriksen, John El-Jor, Danielle Gimbal, Lorinda Lisitza, Eric William Morris, Jeremy Morse, Will Roland, Lance Rubin, George Salazar, Brooke Shapiro, Jared Weiss, Jason SweetTooth Williams, Alan H. Green (July 8 only), and Andrew Barth Feldman (returning on July 11). Upcoming performances will include Nick Blaemire (July 9), Badia Farha (July 9-10), Molly Hager (July 10-11), Rachel Lee (July 9-11), and Lauren Marcus (July 9-11).

Backed by the powerhouse band of Mike Rosengarten, Rob Rokicki, Dennis Michael Keefe, Brent Stranathan, Devon Meddock, Jessie Englander, and Iconis on piano, each and every one brought their A game to the concert and the perfectly suited songs Iconis chose for them, with expressive vocals that fully embodied the distinctive characters, brought empathy to their personal stories, and moved the audience with their relatable emotions. Along with his unparalleled ability to capture the experiences and psychology of the protagonists in his lyrics, Iconis set them to music in a wide range of genres that fit his moods, themes, figures, and singers.

From Feldman’s youthful rock-and-roll fire and teenage uncertainty in “Archie’s All-American” (in which he accompanied himself on guitar) and the empowered woman’s anthem “Revolution Song” from Love in Hate Nation, led by Brady, Shapiro, and Gimbal, to the nostalgic yearnings for the old days as sung by Green, Salazaar, and El-Jor in the quirky “64” and the bittersweet “Haddonfield, 15 Years Later (For Judith),” tenderly performed by Jared Weiss, every number conveyed an engaging mini-narrative that was often comically mundane, sometimes dramatic and heartrending, but always honest and intimate, in Iconis’s authentic style.

Amara Brady, Brooke Shapiro, and Danielle Gimbal, with Mike Rosengarten. Photo by Deb Miller.

Several of the show’s most revealing songs – the funny and insightful “Album,” “Right Place/Wrong Time,” sung to a country beat by Morris and Dideriksen, “Try Again,” with endearing vocals by Rubin, and “Helen Sharp,” performed with sidesplitting passion by Lisitza – captured the autobiographical experience of being an artist and living a life filled with frustrations and rewards, professional connections and competition, endurance and confusion, and, above all, dedication, hope, and love.

Others told comical stories of misfits stuck in a desperate quest for love (Brown on “Saddest Girl in the World,” Morse on “Jeff,” and Morris on “Find the Bastard”) and of a frog from Long Island (the ever-charming Roland as the ribbiting “Amphibian”). There were also two songs – “(I’m in Love with a Man Named) George McGovern” sung by Williams, Salazar, and El-Jor, and the “Song of the Brown Buffalo,” with a blockbuster performance by Salazar – from The Unauthorized Hunter S. Thompson Musical, a gonzo work-in progress by Iconis (music and lyrics) and Gregory S. Moth (book) about the iconoclastic counter-culture journalist.

Jason SweetTooth Williams, with Mike Rosengarten. Photo by Deb Miller.

Throughout the show, the audience was completely immersed in fun, joy, and the music, with the harmonious cast not only singing on stage, but all around the venue and the tables. The spectacular evening concluded with Williams’ profoundly moving rendition of “The Goodbye Song” (which was featured in the TV series Smash), which brought tears to our eyes and brought down the house with his sensitive and heartfelt performance.

You have three more chances to see this outstanding concert by the phenomenal Joe Iconis and his impressive family of NYC theater artists. Don’t miss it. I mean it.

Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, without intermission.

Joe Iconis & Family Live plays through Monday, July 11, 2022, at 7 pm (doors open at 5:30), at Feinstein’s/54 Below, 254 West 54th Street, cellar, NYC. For tickets (priced at $65-115, plus fees, and a $25 per person food and drink minimum), go online. Everyone must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination and a photo ID to enter.

Album, released by Ghostlight Records, is available on Spotify, Amazon Music, and all major music and streaming platforms.


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