Cindy Williams leads cast of “nuns” seeking stardom in heavenly sequel
Cindy Williams, starring as Sister Mary Regina, the Mother Superior, in the latest adventure of the wonderfully wacky and talented Little Sisters of Hoboken in “Nunset Boulevard: the Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show,” invites everyone to see the show at Three Stages in Folsom, Jan. 14-16.
“It’s interactive. It’s a fun show, and the audience will have a lot of fun,” she said in a telephone interview during a break in the show’s national tour.
Williams has a special place in the hearts of many Americans. She was Laurie, the quintessential high school girl of 1962 and girlfriend of Steve, played by Ron Howard, in the 1973 hit movie “American Graffiti.” Filmed in Modesto, “American Graffiti” was a coming-of-age story for that generation and a celebration of American classic cars.
From 1976 to 1983, Williams was a weekly welcome guest in American homes as Shirley Feeney on the “Laverne and Shirley Show,” a spinoff of Ron Howard’s “Happy Days.” It was on this show that Williams’ talent as a comedienne was showcased.
With Penny Marshall as her buddy, Laverne De Fazio, the two young women represented the independent spirit of that decade. Getting a job as bottlestoppers at the Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, Wis., they sang and danced, “We’re gonna make our dreams come true, doing it our way.” Their nonstop antics were hilarious.
Talking about her comedic talent Williams said, “I’m a singer, but there are better singers in ‘Nunset.’ I’m a dancer, but there are better dancers in this show.” Williams said physical comedy is a “natural thing. You just feel it.” Her physical comedy is often compared to Lucille Ball’s in “I Love Lucy.”
Dan Goggin, creator and director of the original “Nunsense” and its sequels, is a special friend of Williams, one she calls “a clever genius.”
Goggin’s Catholic elementary school teachers were responsible for his admiration and affection for the nuns. He came to New York as a singer and sang on Broadway. He also created a line of greeting cards featuring a nun making sharp quips. The wise-cracking nun was the inspiration for a cabaret show originally booked for four days that extended to 38 weeks, which in turn became a full-length musical comedy. “Nunsense” opened off Broadway in 1985 with a run of 3,672 performances. The original show is still being played worldwide. It has been translated into 21 languages.
The original “Nunsense” evolved into “Nunsense II,” followed by “Nunsense Jamboree,” “Nuncrackers,” “Meshuggah-Nuns,” “Nunsensations,” “Nunsense A-Men,” “Sister Robert Anne’s Cabaret Class” and “Nunset Boulevard,”
Goggin had asked Williams to play the Mother Superior role earlier, but the timing wasn’t right. She married in 1982, had two children, and had other professional commitments in movies, television and theater. In 2004 she won a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Finally, her chance came to star in “Nunset Boulevard.” This episode is a tribute to Rev. Mother Dolores Hart. The beautiful Dolores Hart, called “the next Grace Kelly,” appeared in 10 movies in the 1950s and ‘60s. She played opposite some of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Elvis Presley. She left the silver screen in 1963 to become a cloistered Benedictine nun in the Abbey of Regina Laudis (Queen of Praise) in Bethlehem, Conn. Goggin met her when one of the “Nunsense” musicals was playing in Connecticut. She is still a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and national spokeswoman for the Neuropathy Association.
Raising money for improvements to the abbey, Mother Dolores Hart made a documentary about abbey life called “God is the Bigger Elvis,” which was shown on HBO. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 2012, and she attended the award ceremonies.
In the storyline of “Nunset Boulevard,” the sisters are invited to perform at the Hollywood Bowl. Instead of the famous outdoor theater, their gig is at the Hollywood Bowl-a-Rama. But when they hear auditions are being held for a new movie musical about the life of Dolores Hart, they make plans to try out.
Mother Dolores Hart was able to see the show. Williams said that performance was done as a benefit for the abbey. Afterward, Mother Dolores Hart sent a letter to Gibbon reading, “Rather than seeing it as a spoof on ‘nun life,’ the actors are greatly talented women who pull off a gifted production of caricature while being reverent, wily and wonderfully shrewd in their humor.”
Williams said nuns have a great sense of self-humor. “You have to go by the book, but you can be merciful and have some fun. Nuns have fun.”
Her response to Mother Dolores Hart’s message is, “Sounds like a ‘Laverne and Shirley’ show – only with nuns. ‘Laverne and Shirley’ was live. It was so much fun because it’s like having a big party, and the people in the audience are your guests. That’s the same with live theater.”
“Nunset Boulevard,” starring Cindy Williams, will perform in Three Stages at 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 14; Tuesday, Jan. 15; and Wednesday, Jan. 16, with a 2 p.m. also on Wednesday. Tickets are $29 to $49 with premium tickets at $59; a 10 percent discount is offered for Wednesday afternoon single tickets. Purchase tickets online at threestages.net or from Three Stages ticket office at (916) 608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time.
Three Stages is located on the west side of Folsom Lake College campus in Folsom, facing East Bidwell Street.