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Performing arts

Former Destiny's Child singer performs at Pantages in CHICAGO

Michelle Williams as Roxie Hart in Chicago
Michelle Williams as Roxie Hart in ChicagoUli Weber

The stage is set. The lights are in place. It is nearly curtain time for the smash hit musical CHICAGO. Los Angeles fans are in for a real treat as Michelle Williams brings alive her performance as seductive showgirl Roxie Hart. The Grammy Award-winning artist and former member of the R&B group Destiny’s Child said she is thrilled to make her debut at one of Hollywood’s greatest landmarks, the Pantages Theatre.

Williams said theatergoers should definitely ‘be prepared to laugh and be prepared to have their mouths wide open from some of the stuff that Roxie does and says’. “Roxie Hart is very animated,” she said. “I love hearing and feeling the reactions from people in the audience.”

The Tony-Award-winning show depicts the scandalous and sensational story of stardom-seeker turned murderess Roxie Hart. Williams has been appearing as Roxie since last summer, where she performed on stage for London’s West End production. Recently, she was in New York for an extended Broadway run of CHICAGO at the Ambassador Theatre.

“I love theatre and I love the musical Chicago,” said Williams. “I think this is such a legendary classic show and I’m glad to be apart of it.” Producers believed the multi-talented 29-year old would make a perfect fit. Williams initially told her managers that she was interested in the production. All parties quickly agreed to an audition.

“I auditioned like most actors,” shared Williams. “I did a Roxie monologue, along with some dancing and singing. It was a lot of fun.”

Moving to music and belting out tunes are natural for the singer-songwriter and performer. After joining Destiny’s Child in 2000, Williams toured around the world with Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland. Following that, she released three successful solo albums. The last one was in 2008. When asked about a Destiny's Child reunion, Williams responded, “One day maybe, but I can’t really officially say.” The three remain good friends.

Williams admits she was bit by the acting bug. Her Broadway stage debut was in 2003 in Disney’s Aida replacing fellow singer Toni Braxton. She also toured nationally with cast of The Color Purple. LA fans may recall seeing Williams as “Shug Avery” at the Ahmanson Theatre. The talented performer also made the rounds in the television circuit appearing in a UPN comedy “Half & Half”, as well as on FOX’s “Celebrity Duets”.

“It’s a different form of expression for me,” said Williams, who added that theatre is more demanding and requires discipline. “I love being on stage every night in the theatre. It’s very intimate.”

Desiring to impress CHICAGO fans, Williams indeed did her homework. She spent two months researching and one month rehearsing for the production, which is set in the 1920s. Part of her research consisted of re-watching the Academy Award-winning film starring Renee Zellweger and the 1942 film in which actress Ginger Rogers played the alluring murderess.

“I wanted to keep the integrity and the spirit of the show. I did not want to make it too contemporary,” said Williams. “I know I wasn’t born in the 20s, but I wanted to make sure it didn’t look like a 2010 version of a show based in the 20s.”

CHICAGO is based on a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, with music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The musical production won six Tony Awards in 1997, including Best Musical Revival and the Grammy Award for Best Musical Cast Recording.

In the Los Angeles revival of CHICAGO, Williams is joined with Terra C. MacLeod as "Velma Kelly", Brent Barrett as "Billy Flynn", Tom Riis Farrell as "Amos Hart" and Carol Woods as "Matron 'Mama' Morton."

Williams offered inspirational advice to performers. “Stay focused and stay true to who you are,” she said. “To me that’s the best success.”

CHICAGO at the Pantages opens on Tuesday, April 20 and runs through May 9. For more info www.broadwayla.org

 

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