Vanessa Williams may be best known for her TV work in hit series such as "Ugly Betty," "Desperate Housewives" and "The Good Wife."
Others may remember her chart-topping recordings in the 1980s and '90s, including "The Right Stuff," "Dreamin,'" "Save the Best for Last" and "Colors of the Wind."
But Williams will mostly bring her musical stage work to the Broadway Concert Series March 22 at Parker Playhouse. In the series, stage stars are interviewed by Sirius XM radio host and Broadway expert Seth Rudetsky, who prompts behind-the-scenes stories and accompanies the artists while they sing songs from their Great White Way repertoire. After Williams, the series will conclude with Darren Criss ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and "Glee").
Williams appeared on Broadway in the musicals "Kiss of the Spider Woman," "Into the Woods," "Sondheim on Sondheim" and "After Midnight." She also starred in the Horton Foote play "The Trip to Bountiful" with Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. In 1995, she and Jason Alexander headlined a television-movie version of "Bye, Bye Birdie" for ABC.
Her movie credits include "Eraser," "Soul Food," "Light It Up," "Shaft" and "Johnson Family Vacation."
We recently spoke to Williams from her home in New York.
The thing about doing these shows is that the star never knows what Seth Rudetsky's going to ask them to perform. Do you have any idea which of your shows he might pull songs from?
I do. I know we're going to do "Save the Best for Last" and "Colors of the Wind." We definitely will do those two. We do "Kiss of the Spider Woman." He and I will talk about how he was one of the rehearsal pianists … and how he was so surprised. He'll talk about how he figured out I was talented beyond being just a pop music singer. You see this is my third Seth concert. Last April, we did San Francisco. We were in Provincetown on Labor Day weekend and I did a … gala with him in New Jersey with Sondheim music. So we have our act together.
Still, Seth always pulls out some surprises, right?
Oh, yes. He pulled out this audition song that I used to do as a musical theater major at Syracuse [University].
Do you do anything from "After Midnight"? I never got to see that show.
Yeah, I think I'll do "Stormy Weather." At the very end, we did "Happy Days Are Here Again" from the pageant era. He loves to end with that one.
Seth also brings up such intimate details from people's life. He such a show savant, there's nothing he doesn't know about Broadway legend and lore. You ready for that, too?
[laughing] I love it. I love being so loose and spontaneous. It keeps it live for the audience … all the swear words that can happen. You can be really naughty and honest, too. He read my book [2012's "You Have No Idea," a memoir she wrote with her mother]. So he said, "You're awful. You were so awful to your parents." So we talked about me smoking pot, and I did that. And you know, some people, especially young people, don't even know I had a recording career. They only know me from television or films.
Soon, they may know you for your fashion line, V. by Vanessa Williams, which launches on Evine Live [a home shopping television network and website; formerly ShopNBC] on March 19, just a day after your birthday on March 18. How did that come about?
Well, I've wanted to do a line for a while, particularly when I was on "Ugly Betty." I had a lot of inquiries, but it was never the right fit. I started a handbag line, but that kind of died out when the financing went away. And I had a skin-care line on QVC … but I was also doing "[The] Trip to Bountiful," and it was hard to keep up the schedule on TV to promote it, so that kind of failed. Evine Live was … rebranding. And they had a lot of new talent there, and they came to me and said, "We would love for you to do your own clothing line." And the best thing is that the manufacturing is here in New York, so I can go and see the samples and bring in whatever for inspiration. I bring in bags and bags. I say, "I love this color" or "I like beading on the neckline here" or "I like this idea of sheer fabric here, of chiffon." I think it's going to be a hit. It's one of those lines that work for a lot of people, biker jackets, whether it's a jumpsuit, long maxi dresses. I've got boho all the way to city wear, from the office to nightwear. And you always need these special things, you know? I have four white dresses for graduation and a red dress for Valentine's Day. I have four kids, so I know you always need these things. It's affordable. I should have this information here, but I think it's between $30 and $200. Outerwear is more expensive than anything. One jacket has bugle beads on the sleeves, but the rest is very affordable.
I just heard that you're doing Star Jones' TV show for VH1, about a talk show with all women, kind of like "The View," called "Satan Sisters." How did you get involved in that?
She called me. I've known Star for years. She called and said, "VH1 has optioned for 10 episodes, and you're the first call I'm making. I want you to play Maxine [the creator and star of the fictional talk show]." And, of course, I get to work with Suzanne de Passe [former Motown executive], who I played in "The Jacksons [An American Dream]" TV movie. The studio just moved production to Atlanta, which is a bit of a relocation for me. We start in July, so I assume it will be on by fall. Remember, I co-hosted ["The View"] twice, so I know what it's like in the makeup room before the show and what it's like when Barbara Walters says this is what to talk about and this is what not to talk about. Behind the scenes will be easy for me to jump in and portray the nature of the beast.
Vanessa Williams and Seth Rudetsky will appear 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., in Fort Lauderdale (in Holiday Park). Tickets cost $46.50, $66.50 and $126.50. To order, call 954-462-0222 or go to ParkerPlayhouse.com.