‘Nunset Boulevard’ to feature ‘Laverne & Shirley’ starWritten by John Benson | | email@example.com
For those who know “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated,” Cindy Williams has been making her dreams come true in film, television and on stage for roughly 40 years
While the Hollywood actress had an award-winning role in George Lucas’s 1973 film “American Graffiti” and appeared in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film “The Conversation,” it wasn’t until Williams landed an appearance as Shirley Feeney on the television ratings winner “Happy Days” in the mid-70s that her fate was sealed. This led to the incredibly popular series “Laverne & Shirley.”
“At first it was a whirlwind experience. We had no idea what was going on,” said Williams during a recent call from Michigan. “The first season, we knew the network had bought four shows they were going to air and take it from there. Then it just kept going. We didn’t understand the success of it or any of that. We were just doing our jobs, and then it became bigger than life. There were major adjustments I had to make in my life. One day you’re asking your mom to loan you rent money and the next day you can pay off the mortgage on your mother’s home. That’s kind of what it was like. A game changer.”
Unlike today where actors jump freely from the small to the big screen, the California native was typecast as Shirley Feeney. She still found work in pilots and television movies, but as one door shut another opened in the form of stage work.
This included appearing on Broadway in “The Drowsy Chaperone” and in numerous national tours such as “Grease,” “Deathtrap,” “Moon Over Buffalo” and “Nunset Boulevard.”
Now Williams is reprising her role as Reverend Mother in “Nunset Boulevard” with a tour that will visit Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., in Toledo at 3 p.m. Nov. 14. Tickets are $30-45.
So what is it about playing a nun that continues to keep Williams engaged and challenged as an actress?
“Well, who doesn’t like a good nun comedy?” Williams said, laughing. “It’s just all based in innocence. You know, people who are trying to be godly getting into a jam. They have to have patience and that’s always funny to see a person in a terrible situation having to be forgiving and loving. Where do we see that today in this day?”
“Nunset Boulevard” is the seventh show in a nun-based series, which this time finds the singing nuns from Hoboken, N.J., on the road to Hollywood to sing in the Hollywood Bowl Cabaret. The problem is it turns out is the venue is actually the Hollywood Bowl-erama, a bowling alley with a cabaret lounge. Still, the ladies make the best of it, singing a mix of blues, ballads and rock ’n’ roll.
“It’s just a whole bunch of fun and a wonderful evening in the theater,” Williams said. “You’ll go away humming.”
While in some ways the 65-year-old actress remains a pop-culture figure based on the success of “Laverne & Shirley” — which earlier this year was honored with a TV Land Fan Favorite statuette — it turns out Williams was close to landing another high-profile role that could have made her Comic Con royalty.
“George [Lucas] always wanted to cast very young people in the role of Hans Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker,” Williams said. “I was doing ‘Laverne and Shirley’ at the time, but he still had me come in and audition for the role of Princess Leia.”
She quickly added, “I will say the right person got the part. You can’t think of anybody else to play Prince Leia than Carrie Fisher. But I was happy just to audition for it. That’s kind of great in its own way.”
For more information, visit www.stranahantheater.com or call the box office at (419) 381-8851.