The very first time I saw Ruth Williamson perform was in back in 2005 in White Christmas at the Pantages, and now six years later, Ruth is back in Southern California reprising her role as Martha Watson at the Segerstrom Center For The Arts in Costa Mesa.  I’ve also had the pleasure to see Ruth burn up the stage in No Strings, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, and Hello, Dolly, the latter two performances winning the multitalented Ruth a pair of Scenie awards two years back!  Needless to say I’m looking forward to another Ruth Williamson performance this holiday season! 


Hi Ruth.  Can you tell me how you first became associated with White Christmas The Musical? 

 I first became associated with White Christmas back in 2004 when I auditioned for director Walter Bobbie and was cast.

 Were you a big White Christmas fan before doing the show?

It wasn’t really one of my favorite Christmas films. Of course I’ve seen it, but frankly I think the stage version is better! It has more songs and big splashy dance numbers and I think it’s much funnier than the film.

 How many times have you done the show?

 I’ve done White Christmas six times, only missing one year when they cast a Canadian actress in Toronto.

Ruth in a previous production of White Christmas

Fans of the movie who may not yet have seen its stage adaptation may wonder how close the musical follows the film.  Are the two fairly similar? 

The basic plot of the film is the same as the stage version … two war buddies who make it big as entertainers go to the inn in Vermont that their former General is now running and has fallen on hard times. They do their show there and of course find love with the two sisters.

What about Martha?  Does she get a bigger role on stage than on screen? 

Martha is a much bigger part on stage than it was on film. I have three songs and I play a much bigger part in the plot.

Ruth (in yellow) in a previous White Christmas

What’s your favorite Martha moment and/or song?

My favorite moment for Martha is in Act Two when I sing a little known Irving Berlin song called “Falling Out Of Love” with the two sisters. It’s kind of a Boswell Sisters number with tight harmonies.

What is it do you think that gets people back in the theater year after year to see White Christmas live on stage?

I think people come back to see the show year after year because it gets them in the holiday spirit. And of course there’s all that wonderful Berlin music!

Is there anything that makes the 2011 White Christmas a special one for you or for the audience?

Well, it’s always special revisiting this show year after year because the cast changes. I have to adjust my performance to compliment the new people. This year we have a fantastic cast! Very strong! And I have a new General, Joseph Costa, who gives a gentler portrayal than I’m used to. But I have loved making adjustments to suit our relationship onstage. It’s a great acting exercise!

You’ve had an amazing career which includes originating roles in numerous Broadway revivals, including Eulalie Mackecknie Shinn in The Music Man, Jacqueline in La Cage Aux Folles, and of course Martha in White Christmas—to name just the three most recent.  What is it about being on Broadway that distinguishes it from doing a National Tour or a major regional theater production? 

There’s nothing like Broadway. It’s a tight and relatively small community. We all seem to know each other or at least know of each other. It’s so much fun to be a part of all the Broadway Cares charity events. And of course you get to be in New York City.

Ruth (far right) in Guys And Dolls (Hollywood Bowl Production)

Is there one Broadway show or role that shines brightest in your memory?

I think my favorite Broadway experience was Guys And Dolls, the one with Nathan Lane. It was such a huge hit and such a beautiful production directed by Jerry Zaks. It was an honor to be onstage with that cast every night. I think it was about as close to perfect as any production I’ve ever been in.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (Reprise)

You’ve done a lot of your work in L.A.-area theater, including six shows with Reprise and a memorable star turn in the title role in Hello, Dolly.  Is there anything you particularly enjoy about doing theater in Southern California?

Hello, Dolly (3-D Theatricals)

I love working in Southern California because it’s home!! I’ve become a true California gal after twenty-six years in NYC. I’ve been in L.A. now for eleven years and I love it! I’ve made a whole new group of theater friends! And nothing beats playing the Hollywood Bowl—which is walking distance from my home—where I’ve done 3 shows:  The Music Man, Les Miz, and Guys And Dolls.

In addition to your stage work, you’ve done a good deal of film and TV (including your recurring role as Mrs. Grubman on Nip/Tuck.  How would you compare this mostly non-musical aspect of your career with your musical theater career? 

TV and film work is a very different experience from the stage. You have to rein your performance in somewhat. Film requires a whole lot of waiting around. But I love TV work. It’s fast and new and fresh to me. And if the scripts are good, as they were on Nip/Tuck, it can be so fulfilling. However, you don’t get that immediate audience reaction that you get onstage. There really is nothing like that!  I don’t think I would want to give up one for the other.

Ruth (far left) in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Reprise)

What advice would you offer to performers wishing to follow your example of a career that keeps going strong year after year?

My advice to young performers is always to get onstage as often as possible, even if it’s only in a class or a workshop. Just get out there and learn by doing and by watching other performers. Go to lots of shows and concerts and museums. Get inspiration wherever you can. Read plays and books!  But if you ever want to make the jump to being a real professional, you’d better have a lot of confidence. If anyone can talk you out of it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

Ruth as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie (California Musical Theatre)

Is there a “Ruth Williamson role” that you haven’t played yet but are dying to sink your teeth into?

There are two roles in musical theatre that I have not played and dearly want to: Mama Rose and Mrs. Lovett.

You would be sensational in both, and hopefully someone with the power to make it happen is reading this!  Back to White Christmas: How are you feeling about spending the holidays close to home this year? 

I’m thrilled to be close to home for Christmas this year!

Do you mind missing a “white Christmas” in order to do White Christmas in the OC?

I’ve seen enough snow in the past six years. I’m happy to celebrate in the sunshine!

Thanks so much Ruth.  I look forward to seeing you onstage and at the stage door on Opening Night!

RUTH WILLIAMSON (Martha Watson) Broadway: White Christmas, La Cage Aux Folles, The Music Man (Outer Critics Nomination), Epic Proportions, Little Me, Guys & Dolls, Smile, Musical Comedy Murders, Annie. Off-Broadway: The Green Heart (Drama Desk Nomination), The Good Times Are Killing Me, Queen Amarantha. Regional: The Music Man, Les Misérables, Guys & Dolls (Hollywood Bowl), Sacramento Music Circus, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Long Wharf, Goodspeed, MUNY, and six shows with LA’s Reprise Series. Film: Evan Almighty, The Producers, Legally Blonde II , Family Man, Malcolm X, Foreign Student, Easy Six, Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie, Die!(Charles Busch’s singing voice) . TV: Monk, Medium, The O.C., The Practice, ER, Star Trek : Enterprise, Law & Order, Hannah Montana and Mrs. Grubman on Nip/Tuck.


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