Vanessa Williams tries something new 

click to enlarge TV, movie and recording artist Vanessa Williams appears with Seth Rudestky and Varla Jean Merman in a Broadway-themed live show this weekend. - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • TV, movie and recording artist Vanessa Williams appears with Seth Rudestky and Varla Jean Merman in a Broadway-themed live show this weekend.
You’d think Vanessa Williams had pretty much done it all in terms of showbiz, but on Saturday she dips a toe into a new kind of entertainment experience, appearing with manic musical theater maven Seth Rudetsky and drag diva Varla Jean Merman in the next installment of “Broadway @ The Nourse.”

The film (“Eraser,” “Soul Food”), television (“Desperate Housewives,” “Bye Bye Birdie”) and theater (“Into the Woods,” “The Trip to Bountiful”) star, recording artist, former Miss America and author had heard Rudetsky’s radio show, but hadn’t seen one of his stage events before.

“I met him for the first time at Audra McDonald’s wedding,” she recalls. “He’s asked me time and time again to perform with him on a cruise and I was always busy. This time he called early enough and I wasn’t booked for the rest of the year.”

Rudetsky, a gifted music director, manages an extensive Internet presence that includes talk shows, radio hosting and a near legendary series of deconstructions of the best and worst moments in pop music and theater. “This is an interesting project,” says Williams, “and I really don’t even know what the heck’s gonna happen.”

The TV star just finished the pilot for “Fantasy Life,” an office comedy centered around a major sports network. Her character is described as “bold, pragmatic, unapologetically caustic and apologetically compassionate” – which Williams admits has a bit of Wilhemina Slater, her “Ugly Betty” fashion diva, in there. “I do miss our show,” she says. “Not only the ensemble, but the whole family. I think we could have gone longer.”

The 52-year-old star, a number she volunteers because “today information is instant,” has a mixed take on technology.

She says, “[What's] unfortunate about so much technology so readily available to people is you don’t have a chance to really have an intimate time with an audience. Being able to curse and not have it end up on the Internet. Being able to say a joke off the top of your head and not have it immediately offend somebody because people are videotaping everything now.

“I imagine it’s not so much of a problem for a stand-up comedian, but I walk out onstage and everyone’s phones are up immediately. It kind of forces you to put a little bit more of a veil up when you are performing because you don’t want something to go viral.”


Vanessa Williams

in Broadway @ The Nourse with Seth Rudetsky and Varla Jean Merman

Where: Nourse, 275 Hayes St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. April 25

Tickets: $50 to $100

Contact: (415) 392-4400,

About The Author

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol

Robert Sokol is the editor at BAYSTAGES, the creative director at VIA MEDIA, and a lifelong arts supporter. Diva wrangler, cinefiler, and occasional saloon singer, he has been touching showbiz all his life. (So far no restraining orders have been issued!)... more
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