Arts & Culture

Cindy Williams stars in Tampa musical

Cindy Williams had significant roles in some of the greatest independent films of the 1970s, including George Lucas' "American Graffiti" and Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation."

Then came a mega-hit sitcom, and now everyone thinks of Williams as the perkier half of "Laverne & Shirley."

It kept from getting some great movie roles, but she's not complaining.

"Laverne & Shirley" was eight magnificent years," she said. "I was up for a role in a movie that Warren Beatty was directing. I walked into his office and he said 'I really like you but I can't have a face that's so familiar. I understood completely. I took it as a compliment."

Williams, will be in Tampa starting Wednesday, starring in "Menopause The Musical" at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Williams, 67, was a fan of the show long before she became involved as an occasional cast member.

It is, as the name implies, an upbeat show about menopause. Four disparate women meet and discover that they're all struggling with some aspect of menopause, They bond and sing songs, which are familiar pop hits with rewritten lyrics. "Stayin' Awake" is one. "Puff, My God, I'm Draggin'" is another.

"Menopause is rite of passage," Williams said. "But it's a rite of passage that smacks you in the butt, and then makes your butt bigger. Laughing about it helps remove some of the stigma."

Williams plays a fifth character who has been added to the show for selected productions. She sings one song and serves as sort of a narrator.

One of the primary characters, a soap opera star, is played by a recent transplant to Bradenton.

Cherie Price has played the role all over the country in this production, although this is her first time performing with Williams.

She just moved to Bradenton a few months ago from Portland, Ore., for family reasons. She hasn't done much theater around here yet, but she was in "Menopause The Musical" when it stopped at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota in January.

Middle-aged women are the target audience for "Menopause The Musical," but both Williams and Price said the show appeals to men, too.

"Men are usually dragged to it, but they end up laughing as hard as the women," Williams said. "They all have wives and girlfriends, so they have to deal with menopause, too."

The show is basically silly fun, but some people actually find it inspirational.

"I'll never forget," Williams said. "After one show a man came up to me and he said 'If I had seen that show 10 years ago I wouldn't be divorced.' "

Details: June 3-7, Ferguson Hall at Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 8 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $48.50-$68.50 plus service charge. Information: 813-229-7827, strazcenter.org.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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