The Hollywood star shows off her musical side this week at Feinstein’s at the Nikko. It’s a long-lurking talent that has been gradually finding the spotlight in the last few years.
“When I was young and I was working as a ticket taker at the Universal Amphiteatre I really wanted to pursue it, but I just didn’t know how. I’d look at people onstage and I just didn’t know how they did it. I didn’t know that you didn’t have to write your own music,” she laughs.
An old-fashioned showbiz “discovery” got her modeling for Harper’s Bazaar while in high school and television and film roles soon followed. She met her husband, Tom Hanks, in 1981 on his series “Bosom Buddies,” but they did not start dating and get married until a few years later.
“I’m married to an older man,” she jokes about the fact that his birthday is in July and hers was last Saturday – though both were born in 1956. “He said to me the other day, ‘You’re gonna be 57!’ I’m like, “I’m 56, so maybe you should just reconsider that for a moment.’ Right?”
Wilson’s musical chops made a brief appearance on Broadway in “Chicago” and she and Hanks were producers of the film version of “Mamma Mia!”
“After I did ‘Chicago’ I thought, ‘I’ve got to have more music in my life.’ It was always there, just not in a public way.” She started developing a project of period music and sought the advice of her friend, music producer Jay Landers.
“He said, ‘Well, are you gonna be in this musical?’ I replied I wasn’t sure, and then he said, ‘You know, why don’t you just make an album?’ That opened up a whole other discussion.”
The result is “AM/FM,” an ode to the music of her 1970s Los Angeles car-culture youth she released last year. It forms the framework of her new cabaret show, which also includes original songs by Wilson, collaborating with fellow “Chicago” alum Kara DioGuardi and Jason Reeves.
“Kara really was the person who encouraged me to write and held my hand through that process,” says Wilson, who just returned from a songwriting stint in Nashville. “It opened up doors to writing with all these other amazing writers so I’m pretty happy. It’s good right now.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Feinstein’s at the Nikko, 220 Mason St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, 7 p.m. Saturday
Tickets: $40 to $60
Contact: (415) 394-1100, www.feinsteinssf.com