A conversation with ‘Chicago’ and former Destiny’s Child star Michelle Williams

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Michelle Williams rose to fame as one third of Destiny’s Child, the mega-popular R&B trio that included lead singer Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Rowland. Since the group disbanded in 2006, Williams has launched a solo music career and established herself as a musical theater actress in the West End and Broadway productions of ‘Chicago.’

Starting Tuesday, Williams will appear in the L.A. engagement of the ‘Chicago’ national tour at the Pantages Theatre. The singer, who coincidentally hails from the Chicago area, will play Roxie Hart, the naive but ambitious heroine who is thrown into the slammer on charges of murder and eventually becomes a media sensation thanks to her manipulative lawyer.

The Pantages engagement of the classic Kander & Ebb musical is set to run through May 9. (Note to Destiny’s Child fans: Williams will not appear in either of the performances on Saturday, May 1.)

The L.A. cast also includes Terra C. MacLeod, Brent Barrett, Tom Riis Farrell and Carol Woods.


Culture Monster recently spoke with Williams by phone from New York, where she was finishing up her Broadway run.

Tell us about your take on Roxie Hart.

Williams: Roxie’s cute, she’s witty and she’s passionate about what she wants to do. But she goes about it the wrong way and it makes for a great story.

What’s the biggest difference between performing pop music and theater?

Williams: With pop music you have more interaction with your audience and you can do what you want. I’m not saying that you don’t have marks that you have to hit, but you do have more freedom. In theater, you’re one unit. One misstep could mess up someone else, so your mistakes will show a lot.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made so far in ‘Chicago’?

Williams: One time, I got caught up in a monologue and when I got to the song that followed it, I spaced out. I guess I got a little too deep and I forgot a lyric -- no one noticed but the people on stage. It’s fun when you have bloopers on stage and only your cast mates know.

What’s the hardest part of doing the show?

Williams: Keeping the momentum. Roxie is up all the time. The only time I can be down is near the end. It can be tiring. There are many nights when I come home and I get into the tub.

Have you been able to catch any Broadway shows during your time off?

Williams: Yes, I’ve seen ‘Fela!’ and I saw Kelsey Grammer in ‘La Cage aux Folles.’ I loved both shows, but they’re both very different. I thought ‘La Cage’ was phenomenal.

What else do you do on your down time?

Williams: I rest a lot. Theater gives me a kind of stability -- I’m able to catch up on ‘Judge Judy,’ ‘The Young and the Restless.’ I catch up on a lot of television. I don’t go out much because I want to preserve my voice and energy. I have friends who do theater who go out every night, but I can’t.

What kind of roles would you like to play in the future?

Williams: I would love to do a romantic comedy one day. I absolutely love Larry David. I think he’s hilarious. I’m so intrigued by him, and I’ve watched every episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm.’

Are you working on a new album?

Williams: For now, I’m focusing more on the acting. But I do have ideas for a next album. I can’t wait to get in the studio.

What will you do with your free time while in L.A.?

Williams: I cannot wait to get to L.A. to do lunch outside in cafes. I’ll be doing a lot of lunch. Lunch and meetings.

-- David Ng