Regina Marie Williams says that her interest in Nina Simone has been “sort of simmering over the years.” On November 19 and 20, for the first time, she’ll serve up Simone’s songs, and some of her story, to audiences at the Capri Theater (2027 West Broadway) on Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m. and 3 p.m. Sunday, November 20. Tickets are $25; order at thecapritheater.org or OvationTix at 866-811-4111. Season tickets for the three-concert “Legends” series, which includes a February 11 and 12 Valentine’s concert and a Frank Sinatra tribute April 14 and 15, are $60.
“Simone’s music—that deep, dark voice, her profile, her stature—she fascinates me,” Williams says. “She’s iconic. So much of her needs to be uncovered. I can’t do it all in two performances. But I’m going to try to reveal a lot about her.”
Simone’s range of musical styles is one of the attractions for Williams, who has demonstrated her own versatility as an actor and singer to Twin Cities theater-goers. She won a 2010 Ivey for Mixed Blood’s Ruined. She has starred in productions ranging from She Loves Me to The Burial at Thebes, which will close at the Guthrie just two weeks before Williams debuts Nina Simone at the Capri Theater. Williams is also well known for her portrayal of another troubled music legend, Dinah Washington, in the Penumbra Theatre’s production of Dinah Was.
Although Simone enjoyed success with songs like George Gershwin’s I Loves You, Porgy, My Baby Just Cares for Me and I Put a Spell on You, she isn’t as widely known today as contemporaries like Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. Songs that Simone was first to record—like Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood—were bigger hits for other artists.
Williams thinks Simone may not have been widely popular for the same reasons that make her compelling as an artist: “That uprightness. Often times she didn’t wear makeup on stage. The woman didn’t mind sweating; she didn’t mind having short hair. There was something very free, even with her stillness,” Williams says. “When you watch the videos of her performances, she‘s not moving, like Regina would be moving, but she’s free, just as free as she can be.”
“Nina: I Put a Spell on You” marks Regina Marie Williams’ first solo concert in the Capri’s Legends series, although she has been in the audience. “I enjoy concerts there,” she says. “It’s comfortable, and there’s the social aspect of it. The artists mix with the people. I can’t think of another space to do what we’re about to do. There’s something about that stage that will allow me the freedom to be Nina.”
The Capri Theater is owned and operated by Plymouth Christian Youth Center (PCYC), a non-profit human services organization that serves Northside children and families through education, community programs and community development. For more information, visit www.pcyc-mpls.org.