PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Robin De Jesus, Teal Wicks, Natalie Weiss and Putting the Pieces Together Cast Pick Inspirational Songs

News   PLAYBILL PLAYLIST: Robin De Jesus, Teal Wicks, Natalie Weiss and Putting the Pieces Together Cast Pick Inspirational Songs
Two-time Tony Award nominee Robin De Jesus, Teal Wicks and Natalie Weiss are among the performers set for Putting the Pieces Together: Volume 2, a benefit concert for autism awareness, April 24 at 54 Below. In anticipation of the evening, members of the cast pick inspirational songs as part of this week's Playbill Playlist

Robin De Jes
Robin De Jes

The 9:30 PM concert, benefiting M.O.V.E for Autism — which raises funds for children with special needs in New York City and around the world — will feature music by Sam Carner and Derek Gregor; Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne; David Maglione and Tomas Ruiz; Joey Contreras; Justin Anthony Long, Jonathan Lee and Joanna Burns; David Dabbon; and Will Van Dyke

Joining Weiss (Everyday Rapture), De Jesus (In the Heights, La Cage aux Folles) and Wicks (Jekyll & Hyde, Wicked) are Marla Mindelle (Sister Act, Cinderella), Heather Parcells (A Chorus Line, Soul Doctor), Eric Michael Krop (Godspell), Blake Daniel (Spring Awakening), Bonnie Milligan (Off-Broadway's Jasper in Deadland), Jessica Hendy (Cats, Aida), Morgan Assante, Paul Pilcz (Bye Bye Birdie), Spencer Kiely, Lauren Renahan, Anthony Lee Medina, Justin Anthony Long, Will Ray, Dana Costello, Lindsey Mader, Mj Rodriguez (Off-Broadway's Rent) and Michael Gioia.

Rounding out the cast are Dan Deluca, Steve Raymond, Josh Tolle, Nicolette Burton, Lawson Young, John Battagliese, Chris Frazier, Phil Sloves, Abby Slocum, Andrew Pace, Emily Rogers and Toren Nakamura.

Victor Legrá, Anthony Crouchelli and M.O.V.E for Autism present Putting the Pieces Together: Volume 2.

54 Below is located at 254 W. 54th Street. For more information and tickets, visit

Teal Wicks: "Up to the Mountain" (Patty Griffin). She pretty much inspires me with every song she writes, and she was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. to write this song... So it's pretty much a double whammy of inspiration to persevere, fight the good fight and find peace.

Robin De Jesus: My current go-to song for inspiration is Paula Cole's "Me." It's super empowering, but be warned, if taken incorrectly it may make you want to crawl into a fetal position and ugly cry. It's times like these I remember what my girl Viola [Davis] once said, "You is smart, you is kind and you is important."

Natalie Weiss: "Heal The World" (Michael Jackson). I have a vivid memory of being in my living room at seven years old, watching a Michael Jackson concert and seeing all of his fans faint because of how much they idolized him.

Bonnie Milligan: "I Look to You" (Kim Burrell and Whitney Houston). This performance slays me every time I see it. Kim Burrell is the queen of riffs. I mean, clean, original, gorgeous, I cannot. And, Whitney? Well, there's no one like her. These ladies and this song are truly inspiring. I love it so much! And, when you think it's over? It's not! They bring it back.

Sam Carner: "Till There Was You" from The Music Man by Meredith Willson. So this is admittedly an odd choice for "inspirational songs," but when I think about it, the musical theatre moments I find most inspirational are the ones that remind us that so much of life is about our perspective on it. These paradigm-shift songs are an implicit challenge to see the potential in the world and in ourselves, something we all can but don't always do. I always find that both moving and empowering. That's what I love about so much of "Yip" Harburg's work, and if I could have found a video of "That Something Extra Special" from Darling of the Day, I might have used that. It's also what I love about songs like Adam Gwon's "Calm" from Ordinary Days. As for "Till There Was You," it's a song all about changing perspective, about seeing and experiencing in a new way. The bells on the hill were there all along, as were the birds in the sky and the wonderful roses, but Marian and Harold have only just discovered them.

Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne: "Wig in A Box" from Hedwig and The Angry Inch. We've chosen this song because, quite simply, there is nothing more inspirational than John Cameron Mitchell in an absolutely fabulous wig.

David Maglione and Tomas Ruiz: "True North" (Jillette Johnson). We share the belief that one day you can be the hottest of tamales or the next day you can be the hottest of messes, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. For us, life is about allowing yourself to fall on your face, pick yourself up, and keep it movin'. Eventually you're going to get there, even if you're stumbling along the way."

Joey Contreras: I really thought long and hard about what songs with inspirational messages have deeply connected with me. Sometimes I want to belt it out, dance it out, or cry it out depending on the situation or crisis in which I need some musical medicine. The song "Chasing the Sun" by Sara Bareilles makes me want to do all of the above. The lyrics, the vocals, the instrumentation, everything just hits hard straight to the heart and inspires me to push through whatever and live fully.

Justin Anthony Long: "You'll Be Okay" (A Great Big World). The simple lyrics and soulful throwback piano-pop music of this song make me feel nostalgic and remind me that whatever hardship I may currently be experiencing, "The sun will rise to better days." Call me a purist, but I love it when the band sings it.

Jonathan Lee: One of my favorite inspirational songs is "Rainbow Connection." It's a classic that almost everyone has heard. I grew up listening to Kermit the Frog sing it, but it wasn't until I was an adult did I fully understand why I was so drawn to the song itself. It really comes down to the melody and the lyrics. The melody has a melancholy pull to it, but it's also hopeful. The lyrics resonate on a universal level. They encourage me to not only have dreams, but to also follow through and actually "live" them.

The best cover of the song I've ever seen that's the epitome of "don't dream but do" is Jane Lui's cover. She is creative with her instrumentations, and the video itself is just… inspiring.

Joanna Burns: "I Wish" (Stevie Wonder). As soon as I hear the opening lick to this song, I lose my mind. It's the sort of sound that makes me "ooooOOOOAAAHHH!" like a siren as I joyfully turn to my friends with reckless abandon, assuming they're having the same reaction — only to awkwardly find out that they, in fact, are not. The punchiness of the bass, the raw, dry, undeniable groove of the drums, the syncopated stabs of the horns… This tune has it all. And Stevie's vocals sound as impeccable as ever. This is the kind of song that makes me want to work to be a better musician and also reminds me to have fun and enjoy life all at the same time. Probably because I'm instantly reminded that it's Stevie himself who wrote it and played those legendary keyboards and drums.

Michael Gioia: "Happiness" by The Fray is such an overwhelmingly beautiful song. The song (from their second, self-titled album) came to me during my senior year of college — I would sing it on the way to a summer class with my English-major counterpart Samantha (so, obviously, we analyzed it to pieces). Yes, happiness is a wonderful feeling, but what happens when you find yourself in a dark period — caught between a rock and a hard place? Happiness becomes your worst enemy. "Happiness damn near destroys you/Breaks your faith to pieces on the floor." It feels impossible to EVER be happy again when you're "stuck" — especially when you look back to a successful time (whether in love, your career or your financial situation).

However, if you keep moving forward and keep an open mind — letting go of the bitterness (created from comparison, to a happier version of yourself or others around you) — happiness will find you when you least expect it…

"Happiness, it's like the old man told me
Look for it and you'll never find it all
But let it go, live your life and leave it
Then one day you'll wake up and she'll be home"

Will Van Dyke: There are too many amazing songs to choose from… BUT I'm going to go with the self-empowerment "I've Gotta Be Me" by Walter Marks from Golden Rainbow. It was made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. I am currently loving the version recorded by Billy Porter on his new album "Billy's Back On Broadway." Get into it!

Victor Legrá: "Uncharted" (Sara Bareilles). You can create your own path in life, and you can't let yourself get down. Sara always knows how I'm truly feeling. Her music is so inspirational. I can't wait for her to bring Waitress to Broadway.

Paul Pilcz: I'm positive if you asked me for an inspirational song again in a couple days, I'd come up with choices completely different than these, but here's what I'm thinking for now. As far as musical theatre goes, I'm going to have to go with "Part of It All" from [title of show]. The songs simplicity along with its hopeful voice make it both inspirational and endearing. The song comes from a place that's completely honest and true. It simply shows how much the characters fantasize about their dreams of becoming successful writers. We sometimes forget that we have the power to do anything we want in life. As long as we strive hard enough and go all out with the most conviction we can muster, we can turn our dreams into reality.

As far as a song I find inspirational that's not musical theatre, I'm gonna have to go with "You Need Me Man, I Don't Need You" by Ed Sheeran. This song is a helpful reminder that if you believe in yourself, you can make anything happen. The song is literally self-explanatory as you can see by its title. Personally, I have met a lot of people in my life who have told me that I'm not good enough, and this song is an anthem for those who just want to turn around and throw back a huge eff you.

Dan DeLuca: Choosing one song for this was extremely difficult. I don't think I'm alone when I say that I go to music for inspiration almost every minute of every day. Jason Mraz's "Living in the Moment" is a big one for me right now. We get so caught up in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, and we all need to remember to tell our brains to hush and just live in the present moment. And, it's a straight-up jam.

Dana Costello: "Upside Down" (Jack Johnson). I have two 12-year-old twin (kick-ass) nephews, Mikey and Johnny, who have autism. They are sweet and thoughtful and hilarious and they LOVE music! They love this song because it was in the "Curious George" movie. They are a lot like Curious George — sneaking treats, making messes, always trying to help. But the lyrics in this song mean even more for them: "Who's to say I can't do everything, well I can try" … "And as my mind begins to spread it's wings, there's no stopping curiosity."

Everyday these little guys deal with sensory overload and communication issues in a fast-paced world, but this hasn't kept them from trying new things and making new strides. All with a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts!

(Their parents Tom and Irene Costello have started a non-profit called Twin Hearts Foundation to help enrich the lives of children and adults with autism.

Lawson Young: "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" (performed by Eva Cassidy). "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" reminds me that everything in this world is limitless, and there is always something more to be discovered.

John Battagliese: "Details in the Fabric" (Jason Mraz). "Details in the Fabric" is a constant reminder to stay true to who you are and not let the weight of the problems surrounding you bring you down.

Phil Sloves: My favorite inspirational song is "You Raise Me Up" performed by Josh Groban. It is a song about support and love conquering fear. I think it relates to autism awareness because people with autism need a strong support system to get them through life.

Kate DeWall: "Shooting Star" (Owl City). Whenever I get in a slump and run out of new ideas, or get down on myself when things aren't falling into place like I had hoped, this song always brings me back and helps me regain my focus. It helps you realize that no matter what kind of circumstances you are in, you can be the person you want to be if you just get out of your head enough to let yourself. Take a chance. Live in the moment. Create your own story. Don't be afraid to shine bright enough to let the world see what you have inside.

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