‘Laverne & Shirley’ star to perform at Sondheim
“Nunsense,” the original off-Broadway musical comedy, opened in 1985; now 3,672 performances and six sequels later, “Nunsent Boulevard: The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show,” has one performance at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, as part of this season’s Artist Series at Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts in Fairfield.
Stage actor, TV and film star Cindy Williams dons the habit of mother superior in this touring company’s production, singing and dancing with the original New York cast.
Williams is best known for her role as Shirley in the 1976-1983 TV sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” as well as playing Laurie Henderson, Ron Howard’s high school sweetheart and younger sister to Richard Dreyfuss in the 1973 George Lucas film, “American Graffiti” and as Howard’s wife in 1979 “More American Graffiti.”
She has acted in 21 films, 24 TV shows, six stage productions and co-produced Steve Martin’s films “Father of the Bride” and its sequel.
“I love playing mother superior,” said Williams in a phone interview from her tour bus in Georgia Oct. 24. “I love being on stage.”
Creator/writer Dan Goggin brought to life The Little Sisters of Hoboken in the first “Nunsense,” and their antics, songs and hidden aspirations continue through the popular sequels.
“It’s so much fun to sing and dance,” said Williams. “Although last night, a singing coach attended the show and afterward she was complimenting the four other women who have incredible voices. Then she said to me, ‘And you have a very low voice,’ I’m glad she was honest. My voice is low.”
Williams who grew up in southern California and still makes her home there, said she remembers attending Mass conducted in Latin as a young child.
“My grandmother used to take me to mass,” she said. “I was familiar with nuns dressed in their habits. It had an influence.”
When she was a bit older, her father took charge of her church attendance.
“Now my father was a Welsh Protestant and he made sure I attended church every Sunday,” said Williams. “He’d drop me off at a different Protestant church every week, so I learned my Bible very well.
“Danny [Goggin, author] wrote the Nunsense musicals based on characters from his school teachers,” she said. “Part of the story is about fundraising.”
Which brings up opportunities for a Catholic fundraising breakfast and bingo games in the show.
“Across the board, it’s a fun-filled, whole family show,” said Williams. “It has a few risqué, double-entendre remarks, but children don’t usually pick up on those.
“And the show has audience participation.”
The show’s schedule depicts one-and-two-day runs in theatres across the country, working from the east to west. It can get difficult to keep track of where she’s going, said Williams.
“We can go from playing a small, intimate theater to a huge auditorium,” she said. “We don’t know until we arrive. Our crew goes in and marks our stage marks, we have a sound check with the cast and technicians so we all know what it sounds like. We have our own musicians traveling with us. The local theaters provides someone to run the spotlight,” she said.
“I’m on a bus, traveling the country, which it’s great to see the countryside from highways, but it’s not very in-depth.
“I miss my kids [ages 30 and 26] and my family dog and cats,” said Williams. “And trying to take care of things in your life over the phone is character building.”
Throughout her career Williams said playing Shirley on “Laverne & Shirley” was her most fun.
“It was so much fun,” she said. “I had the best laughs of my life in those rehearsals.”
Playing a mother superior nun also is fun, and the premise of this show is The Little Sisters of Hoboken are invited to appear at the Hollywood Bowl. Surprises, twists and turns and dashed expectations ensue.
Tickets for the Nov. 15 show are available from $12 to $32 at the Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts box office, open noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and one hour prior to all performances and online at www.fairfieldacc.com/site/buy-tickets.html.