Any theater buff knows of the world-class, triple-threat talent that is Michael Williams, which made him a natural choice for the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ next concert under the “Triple Threats: Leading Men and Women of Philippine Musical Theater” series.
Williams, however, is bringing to the spectacle a fourth element: his newfound flair for painting.
Williams’ works will be on view at the CCP only on the day of his concert, Sept. 18. These will showcase mostly portraits done in pastel and charcoal, and a number of digital ones which Williams drew using an app in his tablet.
“I have a lot of friends who are painters, and I’ve always been jealous of their ability to capture images and put them on paper,” says Williams, who took up painting a year ago after trying his hand at an urban drawing class, the main challenge of which was to draw a subject within five minutes after seeing it. “It has always fascinated me.”
“A lot of my work is interpretative,” he adds. “I draw random people, or sometimes I take photos and reinterpret them.”
He also describes his paintings in the same way he describes himself—“emotive.” His upcoming show titled “Never Felt Better” is testimony to Williams’ general outlook on his life at the moment.
“I’m at a particular junction in my life and in my career where I feel quite happy,” he says. “There’s no major drama; it’s all smooth sailing. I want to celebrate that, and make the show about that.”
It’s easy to understand why Williams is on such a high. His concert comes on the heels of the successful run of “Rabbit Hole,” a family drama about coping with the loss of a child, in which
he starred together with Sheila Francisco, Agot Isidro, Che Ramos-Cosio and Ross Pesigan.
Right before “Rabbit Hole,” Williams was in “Priscilla, Queen of the Dessert” with Leo Valdez, Jon Santos and Red Concepcion, which ran at Resorts World Manila (RWM) from May until
“I was doing ‘Priscilla’ while I was rehearsing for ‘Rabbit Hole.’ So you can imagine how crazy that was!” he says.
The 90-minute concert will feature songs personally chosen by Williams. He’s not giving away any titles since he wants to surprise his audience, but says that the show will have a retro or “throwback” feel and look. The best hint Williams gives on the kind of music that we’ll be hearing is that he’s “doing jazz.”
“Of course, I’ll be performing songs that I’m usually associated with, but I’ll be adding a twist,” he says.
Williams is also not confining his song choices to those from theater. He says that audiences can expect Tagalog ballads, as well as other more popular songs which he chose for their dramatic quality.
“It’s going to have an almost nightclub feel,” says Williams.
But since he is Michael Williams, the renowned actor says that the theatrical element of storytelling will still be present in his concert. But, instead of seeing him under the veil of a character, the audience will be watching Williams showcase himself.
“Never Felt Better” is the second concert in this year’s “Triple Threats” series. The first was Sheila Francisco’s “Once in a Lifetime” last Aug. 21, and the last is Bituin Escalante’s “Everything in Bituin” on Oct. 9. The first set of “Triple Threats” concerts, which were held last year, featured Nonie Buencamino, Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Audie Gemora.
In addition to theater actor and director (he directed RWM’s production of “Cinderella”), and, now, painter, Williams is also teacher to elementary and high school students aspiring to break into the theater industry. Once a week for the past 10 years, Williams has been moderator of theater clubs at De La Salle-Zobel and Chinese International School Manila.
“I teach them the fundamentals—projection, clarity of speech, analysis of text. But I’m also very careful of curtailing their creativity, because if they do something different, who am I to say that it’s wrong?” he says. “So I also tell them, these are the rules as I know them.”
He adds: “I know they won’t all be actors, so I also make it a point to teach them life skills like discipline, active listening, comprehension, confidence.”
(While Williams says he teaches by example, he’s not too sure if he can invite his students to “Never Felt Better.” “Maybe their parents can watch, but I better let them know that the show’s a bit ‘PG’ [parental guidance],” he says, laughing. “Some parts are a bit, um, risqué.”)
After his solo concert, Williams is again performing in “Priscilla,” which will have a two-week run in Singapore in October and another eight shows in RWM in November.
He recalls that it was during one of the shows in the play’s first run that he saw just how “rich” his life in theater is.
“I was waiting in the wings with what I could effectively call a Pomeranian on my head, and I was in a miniskirt and heels. And I could see all sorts of people running around—men in bras, women in bras—and there’s a bus on stage. Where on Earth can you experience that?” he says. “And I just think, wow, what a rich life. Plus, the fact that I’m still here after 30 years in theater makes me really happy.”