Teal Wicks is certainly no stranger to the 54 Below stage, having recently performed in benefit concerts such as Putting the Pieces Together and the Playbill article-inspired The Contemporary Musical Theatre Songwriters You Should Know LIVE!, but May 8 marked the actress' solo concert debut at the popular Manhattan venue.
After opening with Brandi Carlile's "Raise Hell," Wicks explained that the evening was a long time coming, but — as much as it excited her to explore her soul, folk and bluesy side — nerves were a reason for her hesitations. Without a role or a costume, Wicks, dressed in brown bellbottoms and a bohemian-chic sleeveless tunic — studded with necklaces, charms and bracelets — put forth an eclectic evening of tunes representing her coast-to-coast journey from Sacramento to New York City.
She continued with Joni Mitchell's "All I Want," singing how she was "traveling, traveling, traveling" through the States. (Wicks began her journey to Broadway by playing Elphaba in the Los Angeles production of Wicked, prior to making her Main Stem debut with the musical.) Wicked co-star Megan Hilty (glowing from her pregnancy) smiled as she watched from the back booth of 54 Below.
Wicks exhibited her wide-ranging vocal abilities — seamlessly slipping in and out of her head voice throughout the night — with Adele's "Crazy for You," The Band's "The Weight (Take A Load Off)," Patty Griffin's "Rain," Neko Case's "I Wish I Was the Moon" and more. The performer also included a tune from The Blue Flower, in which she starred at Off-Broadway's Second Stage, "Angels on the Levee." Wicks, who said she tried to put together an all-girl band growing up (named Girl Toy), was backed by six musicians: music director Jasper Grant on piano; Thad Debrock on guitar; Simon Kafka on banjo, mandolin, guitar and ukulele; Jared Schonig on drums; Phong Ta on violin; and Lorenzo Wolf on bass.
Vocalists Carey Anderson and Zakiya Young joined Wicks on a few numbers, and Tom Fellenbaum — her "man," as she referred to him — accompanied Wicks on an original tune they wrote together. She also serenaded him with Van Morrison's "Into the Mystic."
She concluded the evening with her first "hit song," according to her parents — "Tomorrow" from the classic musical Annie. The crowd sang along.
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)