Michelle Williams is Set to Dazzle in ‘Death Becomes Her’ at Cadillac Palace Theatre

Michelle Williams is back where she belongs, on stage for a Broadway-bound production. 

Sure, she’s renowned for being a core member of a famous female R&B group. Still, Williams has made her mark by appearing in some of the most memorable productions over the last twenty years: “Aida,” “Chicago,” “Fela!” and, of course, “The Color Purple.” 

Before this Rockford, Illinois native heads back to Broadway for her latest venture, she will appear on stage much closer to home. Williams is set to star in “Death Becomes Her” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in downtown Chicago from April 30 to June 2 before the production heads to Broadway. 

Williams plays Viola Van Horn in the musical based on the 1992 cult classic that originally starred Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. Williams will reprise the role that Isabella Rossellini played in the film. 

The Chicago Defender recently caught up with this multi-talented singer, actress and author. Williams talked about her involvement in “Death Becomes Her,” the importance of mental health and her love for grocery shopping. 

When I mentioned a particular food item from a grocery store she frequents, she knew exactly what the deal was, which is a testament to her phenomenal taste — in food and the roles she plays.  

Chicago Defender: Are you enjoying this space in your career, being on stage and doing theater?

Michelle Williams: I am. I am. I remember the very first time I hit a Broadway stage in 2003, in Aida. And so, it’s amazing. Every couple of years, I find myself in an amazing Broadway production.

“I promise you that when you invest in yourself, it really is an investment in yourself.” – Michelle Williams

Chicago Defender: How does it feel to play such a pivotal character in a classic like “Death Becomes Her?”

Michelle Williams: It’s kind of scary because Isabella Rossellini was dynamite in her portrayal. And I’m hoping to hear from her. I just reached out to her the other day, like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I need to reach out to her just to get some advice or tips or just to pay my respects and love on her and let her know how excited I am to follow her. So yeah, I’m pretty thrilled about it.

Chicago Defender: What components of Isabella Rossellini’s role are you looking to bring to your portrayal?

Michelle Williams: Hopefully, the stillness. I am very animated. So, to play a role in which she was still and steely. Sure, she wasn’t mean, but she just had a quiet confidence. The way she moved was just so smooth. I’m clumsy. I’m from the Midwest. You know what I mean? I still do my own grocery shopping. [Her character] doesn’t touch a thing. But it’s kind of difficult to make that shift like, ‘Okay, you’re not going to Publix today,’ you’re telling somebody else to go get it for you. But at the same time, it’s fun to play a role opposite of how I am in real life.

Chicago Defender: Speaking of Publix, shout out to their chicken tender sub. The mango key lime pie…

Michelle Williams: Whoooooo [Laughs].

Chicago Defender: Indeed. [Laughs]

Michelle Williams, Jennifer Simard, and Megan Hilty at the press conference for Death Becomes Her” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

Michelle Williams, Jennifer Simard, and Megan Hilty at the press conference for Death Becomes Her” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (Photo Tacuma Roeback)..

Chicago Defender: Reflecting on your journey since you wrote [“Checking In: How Getting Real about Depression Saved My Life—and Can Save Yours”]. Can you talk about what that’s been like? You’ve been open and honest and willing to boost mental health awareness.

Michelle Williams: Absolutely. I count it a blessing to be a creative and share my mental health journey. Because people might think creatives don’t deal with depression or anxiety or other diagnoses, but we do. And it’s okay. 

Outside of being a creative, if you’re a doctor, a homemaker, a teacher, you’ve probably dealt with it or someone close to you has. So, I wrote that book to let people know they weren’t alone. I wanted to make sure that I told my story, and I didn’t want anybody else to assume or allege. I want people to have heard it from me.

Chicago Defender: What advice would you have for anybody grappling with anxiety and depression and who may want to change toxic thought patterns?

Michelle Williams: As long as you’re alive and well, you’re probably going to deal with some sort of anxiety or nervousness. But that anxiety that grapples you to the point where you fear human contact, you fear going outside, you fear making a decision, right? Depression, where you can barely get out of bed. I know people who, if it weren’t for their children or partner, they wouldn’t want to get out of the bed and live. 

My advice to you is you don’t have to scream from the mountaintop like I do. You can quietly go and get the help you need. I promise you that when you invest in yourself, it really is an investment in yourself. Because it’s not your fault. Maybe what happened to you as a child, maybe you dealt with abandonment or some type of abuse, betrayal. 

Even as an adult, everything maybe isn’t rooted from your childhood. You might have lost a job that you just worked so hard for, and you’re having trouble transitioning. Therapy just isn’t for trauma. It’s also for transition. Like, I’m moving to a new city, or for me, I live in Atlanta. I was just in New York, and now I’m here in Chicago. That’s a lot, a lot of movement. So, I do talk to my own therapist about, ‘Whew, it’s been a lot to do all this movement. I’m homesick.’ So just encourage people to get that hour of talk time with someone that you trust and someone that’s been trained to help you overcome some challenges. 

Thank you for asking. It means a lot.

Chicago Defender: Last question. What can people expect from your role as Viola Van Horn in ‘Death Becomes Her’ and the show in general?

Michelle Williams: Yeah, wow. I think people can expect some spice. Please expect great costume design. Please expect great hair and makeup. And expect to see characters bouncing off each other as far as dialog. Even expect me to have some fun up there. 

For More Information

What: Death Becomes Her (A Musical)

Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre

When: April 30 – June 2, 2024

Ticket Info and Performance Times: Individual tickets are available by visiting BroadwayInChicago.com or going to any Broadway In Chicago venue box office. For more information on  performance times, visit BroadwayInChicago.com

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