Singing has always been a big part of Bonnie Williams’ life since she was a small girl growing up in Albany. Getting on stage, however, took a while longer, since she didn’t begin performing until she was an adult.
But once she grabbed the second female lead in “Bells Are Ringing” at the Schenectady Light Opera Company almost 30 years ago, Williams has been a fixture in the Capital Region community theater scene.
She’ll be performing in SLOC’s production of “Beguiled Again” beginning Friday night at 8, giving her the opportunity to reprise her role as Mother Rose in the 2004 SLOC production of “Gypsy.” Williams also performed in SLOC’s 80th anniversary show last year, and when she wasn’t on stage performing, she was behind the scenes at SLOC, serving a two-year term as the group’s president.
Q: What’s it like being president of a community theater group?
A: You run the board meetings, you try to set the tone, and you’re the visible person that’s out there to the community. But it’s the board that makes the decisions, and you have a selection committee that comes up with your season. What the president does is try to make sure the company stays afloat and have it be profitable and artistic at the same time.
In my two years, we had one year that was very successful, and we had a not-so-good year. That doesn’t mean the shows were bad. They were great shows that just didn’t make a lot of money because they didn’t have that name recognition. That’s always a balancing act for community theaters: trying to do good artistic work that also will be a commercial success.
Q: How did you get into performing?
A: I always sang in the school chorus and church choir, and eventually I started performing with the small theater group we had at our church. That’s what got me started, but I was always in the choir and never the ingenue. That just wasn’t me.
I’ve always had the character parts, but now that I’m older that’s perfectly fine. Those are the fun parts like Mother Rose in “Gypsy.” I’m never going to have another part like that.
Q: What is your favorite musical?
A: The one I love to watch the most is “1776,” but unfortunately I’m never going to be in it because there’s only parts for two women and they’re not parts I would be cast in. I absolutely love it. I saw it on Broadway, and I also saw the [New York State Theatre Institute] production and another touring production at the Palace Theatre in Albany. They were all great.
As for performing in a musical, I loved “Gypsy” and playing Mother Rose is a lot of fun, but I also loved “Oklahoma” and “The Music Man.” I’ve done “Oklahoma” three different times, usually as Aunt Eller, and I’ve done “The Music Man” at different places and played Mrs. Shinn, the mayor’s wife. They are great stories and I love the music in both of them.
Q: Why did you want to perform in “Beguiled Again?”
A: It’s not a real known quantity, but you say Rodgers and Hart to people and you hope that means something to them. There’s a little thread running through it, about couples and unrequited love, but there’s not a real story line and it’s not a bio of Rodgers and Hart. It’s made up of a bunch of vignettes using 50 or so Rodgers and Hart songs, many that people will recognize and some that they won’t.
It’s a great opportunity to belt out some great songs, and if you love musical theater you’ll love the show.
Q: Why do you love the theater and performing?
A: It sounds corny, but it’s fun to make people laugh and see them enjoy themselves. I’ve done some nonmusical shows and that was a lot of fun, but I really enjoy singing and being in musical theater. It’s something that everybody, young and old, can come and sit down and really enjoy themselves. I get a very big kick out of it.
Performing is like a drug, a very good drug. I haven’t been married and I don’t have any kids — so being a part of community theater has been my entertainment and my recreation. It’s been my social life and it’s been a very good one. You make a lot of good friends who become like family.
‘Beguiled Again: The Songs of Rodgers and Hart.’
Where: Schenectady Light Opera Company, 826 State St., Sch’dy When: Opening at 8 p.m. Fri. with performances at 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun. through Jan. 20 How Much: $25; 13 and under, $10 More info: 1-877-350-7378