‘A Quick 5′ with Ruth Williamson

Ruth_WilliamsonRuth Williamson is currently performing the role of Martha Watson in the tour of White Christmas at The Kennedy Center. She previously played the same role in the Broadway production. Other Broadway credits include La Cage Aux Folles, The Music Man(Outer Critics Nomination), Epic Proportions, Little Me, Guys & Dolls, Smile, The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940, and Annie (original production). Off-Broadway credits include The Green Heart (Drama Desk Nomination), The Good Times Are Killing Me. and Queen Amarantha. She has performed regionally in The Music Man, Les Misérables, and Guys & Dolls at the Hollywood Bowl and in productions at Sacramento Music Circus, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Long Wharf, Goodspeed, MUNY, Paper Mill Playhouse, and six shows with LA’s Reprise Series. Ruth has been seen in the films Evan Almighty, The Producers, Legally Blonde II , Family Man, Malcolm X, Foreign Student, Easy Six, Psycho Beach Party, and Die Mommie, Die! as Charles Busch’s singing voice. TV credits include Monk, Medium, The O.C., The Practice, ER, Star Trek: Enterprise, Law & Order, Hannah Montana, and Mrs. Grubman on Nip/Tuck. I first saw Ruth in Mack and Mabel when I was working at Paper Mill Playhouse. Since then I have seen her in Guys and Dolls and The Music Man on Broadway. When you watch Ruth on stage you are watching a consummate professional. Her rendition of “Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” in White Christmas is a prime example of a performer knowing how to deliver a song. If you don’t want your holidays to end just yet, you have until Sunday to catch Ruth and the rest of the White Christmas company at Kennedy Center’s Opera House.

What is your first memory of being onstage?

My first memory of being onstage was in a dance recital when I was 3 years old. I was a black poodle doing ballet!

You are currently on tour with Irving Berlin’s White Christmas. What do you enjoy the most about being on tour?

 Touring is hard work. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. But I do like seeing the sites in new cities. I went to the original Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Very cool! And DC is so full of things to see; it’s mind boggling! I toured the Capitol and next week the cast is getting a special tour of the White House! Can’t wait! Also, on tour the company is like a little community. We plan get-togethers and game nights to entertain ourselves. It’s great fun!

Ruth Williamson stars as Martha Watson in Irving Berlin’s 'White Christmas.' Photo by Tanner Photography.

Ruth Williamson stars as Martha Watson in Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas.’ Photo by Tanner Photography.

You performed on Broadway in the musical Smile. What are your memories of working with Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman on that show?

Smile‘s out of town try out was in Baltimore, my home town. So I got a lot of press and had a great time. Howard Ashman was also from Baltimore. As a matter of fact, he was my student teacher at Milford Mill High School! (Oh so many years ago!) Howard was something of a genius. I think his work as a writer in the musical theatre is brilliant. What a terrible loss. He was taken from us way too soon. As for Marvin Hamlisch, well, a nicer, more generous guy never lived. He was a huge personality. He always told me he felt like he and I had gone to camp together! One day a group of us were walking home from a particularly hard day at rehearsal in Baltimore. Marvin saw us and scooped us up and took us all to dinner. I’ll never forget what he told us. He said, “Don’t get upset over a show. The only time you should get upset is if the doctor says prognosis negative.”  He too, was taken too soon. I miss them both.

What is it about Irving Berlin’s White Christmas that makes it such a crowd pleasing show for the audience?

The first thing that makes White Christmas a crowd pleaser is that great Irving Berlin music! It really doesn’t get much better! Then there is all that brilliant Randy Skinner choreography! It never fails to stop the show! And the show is beautifully produced. The sets and costumes are gorgeous. But I think what gets to people the most is the theme of giving back to those who are important in our lives.

After you finish this tour what is next for you?

 I am a writer as well as an actor. So when this tour is over, I am going to try to sell a pilot I wrote for an animated series titled, “Doris” about a Baltimore housewife and her ne’er-do-well family. Wish me luck! And of course I will go back to auditioning. I live in Los Angeles now so I am looking forward to getting back to warm weather and taking long walks in the hills with my dog, Tucker.

About Elliot Lanes

Elliot Lanes has been a professional stage manager/sound designer/board op for over 20 years. After relocating to Washington, DC from the New York City area and marrying the girl of his dreams Jennifer Perry, he has been privileged to work on productions at Theatre J, Synetic, Prince George's Community College and Studio Theater to name a few. He has contributed designs for many shows in the last three Capital Fringe Festivals, two of which garnered critical raves. He is also the creator of MD Theatre Guide's highly successful 'A Quick 5' column.