MANSFIELD — Cindy Williams spent six years, from 1976 to 1982, on the very successful ABC comedy “Laverne and Shirley,” but the actress from California said theater is her true passion.
“It’s what I was trained to do,” Williams said. “I adore theater and the feeling of an audience. They’re like another character.”
Williams has the opportunity to display her passion in the Broadway tour of “Nunset Boulevard,” which is playing for one night only — at 7:30 tonight at the Renaissance Theatre.
Williams previously played Mother Superior in the wildly popular Meadow Brook Theatre presentation of the original “Nunsense,” the first in the international smash-hit Nunsense franchise by Dan Goggin.
“Nunset Boulevard: The Nunsense Hollywood Bowl Show” is the seventh in the series.
“The nuns go to Hollywood thinking they’ve been invited to the Hollywood Bowl, but it turns out to just be a bowling alley,” Goggins said. “But the secondary story is that there’s a screen cast going on across the street for a movie about a woman who left it all to become a nun, so the nuns think they’re naturals for it. At intermission, they all run across the road to audition.”
Williams said the show is a hoot.
“Like Danny says, ‘Our aim is to make everybody feel a whole lot better when they leave’ — and I think we definitely succeed in that,” she said.
It’s a feeling she’s pretty used to.
“I do miss parts of ‘Laverne and Shirley’ for sure,” said Williams, who played the role of Shirley Feeney. “I miss playing those rhythms and attitudes, but (Penny Marshall, who played Laverne) and I would probably have to play the roles on stretchers and walkers now.”
Following her last appearance on the sitcom, Williams said she took time away from acting to start a family.
“I was itching to get back into it, but I enjoyed watching my children grow,” she said. “I loved just being a mom. I did the occasional movie of the week, but didn’t take any intense parts for a long time.”
She was sought out for the Nunsense roles.
When asked what is challenging about the role, Williams cited a problem that she’s dealt with her entire acting career: Her dyslexia.
“I have to see the blocking on stage before I can even think about learning my lines,” Williams said. “On ‘Laverne and Shirley,’ we’d improvise a lot, Penny and I. Penny has a mind like a steel trap. She’d look at a script and have it memorized in a second. I was always a work in progress. But everything always fell into place. She and I have the exact same sense of humor. We’d think of the same things at the same time.”
Williams said she keeps in contact with Marshall, in addition to keeping safe a special piece of memorabilia from her “Laverne and Shirley” days.
“Boo Boo Kitty is at my house,” Williams said with a laugh, referring to Shirley’s large stuffed cat. “There was only one of him and we were always trying to find a replacement. Something was always happening to him. His tail would get ripped off. He’s been through everything, and they wouldn’t let me have him for the longest time. The producers kept him under lock and key. But now he stays in a drawer in my room. I put him on the bed sometimes, but my real cat Pharaoh likes him, too, so I have to be careful.”
Williams said she’s looking forward to her Mansfield visit.
“I love traveling and seeing different parts of the U.S.,” she said. “I feel so privileged to do so, but it can definitely be tiring. I always like to have a Bible with me. I just love the psalms.”
Goggins said he’s excited to show off Williams’ work once more.
“Cindy is a dream,” he said. “She’s one of the hardest workers, funniest and most down-to-earth people you could ever work with. The show is hilarious. Someone said to me, ‘How can you still be laughing at your own material?’ But it’s that funny.”