There was Amelia, Iago’s wife in Shakespeare’s Othello at the Guthrie Theater and Lady Capulet in the Ten Thousand Things production of Romeo and Juliet. Now there is Sister Act’s Deloris Van Cartier, aka Sister Mary Clarence, a decidedly less constricting and more carefree role for singer and actress Regina Marie Williams’ first-ever Chanhassen Dinner Theatres performance.
Sister Act opened October 30 and will run through mid-winter. It features original music by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, who is also known for his work in Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, Little Shop of Horrors and Newsies.
Wildly popular onscreen and on Broadway, the story centers around Van Cartier, a wannabe diva whose life takes a turn after she witnesses a crime. The police hide her away in a Philadelphia convent, where Van Cartier assists the nuns in finding their voices, while refurbishing her own life away from crime and into music. “She loves to sing. She’s adventurous. She wants to be a star,” Williams says of Van Cartier, who holds the Queen of Disco, the late Donna Summer, in very high regard as model of style and stage persona.
“It’s light, funny, and I can sing and dance,” Williams says. “It’s not going to emotionally tax me like roles I have done through the years.”
As actors navigate through a performance’s emotional peaks and valleys, it can take its toll. “Our bodies don’t know we’re acting,” she explains.
While every little girl has a bit of Sarah Bernhardt in her soul, Williams knew at an early age that acting was in her bones. “I would act out what was on the television,” she says, noting that stories from her favorite children’s books weren’t immune from her taking them “live.”
Williams’ first professional acting gig included performing as Count Von Count in the national tour of Sesame Street Live. “It was where I got my union card at 18 years old,” she says.
After six years of touring with the show, the Los Angeles native landed in Minneapolis, where she lives with her husband, Tom Wallace. Other performances have included turns in Park Square Theatre’s The Color Purple, the Pillsbury House Theatre’s Death Tax, the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts’ Damn Yankees and the Penumbra Theatre’s Dinah Was.
In addition to her stage work, Williams has sung her way through the Twin Cities, including the Dakota Jazz Club, and released three CDs, include Regina Is… (songs of Dinah Washington), Feel the Spirit (spirituals and hymns) and When a Woman Loves a Man (jazz standards).
Williams is a recipient of the Ivey and the McKnight Theatre Artist awards and was a nominee for the Helen Hayes Award, one of the country’s most prestigious cultural honors that recognizes excellence in professional theater throughout the Washington, D.C. area.
Williams appears more than qualified to handle the title role for the production, which Chanhassen Dinner Theatres is anxious to present. “We looked at many show options for this time slot and were very pleased that the New York licensor offered this to us,” director Michael Brindisi says. “This will be a feel-good, crowd pleasing show. They took a good movie and made it into an even better Broadway musical. It’s fresh, funny, innovative and has a fast-paced story with big glitzy musical hits. We’re pretty excited to ‘rock the rafters’ at CDT.”
That shouldn’t be difficult, especially when Williams (Van Cartier) belts out—I’m a diva, a goddess, a star on the brink! A house-rocking vision in hot shocking pink!
A party! A riot! The whole kitchen sink! It’s time for the world to find out, don’tcha think? Wo-ho-ho.
Lady Capulet shan’t approve, but audience members should.