Singer Michelle Williams rose to fame in the early 2000s as a member of R&B girl group Destiny’s Child. She began carving out her solo career before the group disbanded in 2005, eventually releasing several hit gospel albums. She took on Broadway roles in “Aida” and “Chicago” and toured with productions of “The Color Purple” and “Fela!”
But in recent years, Williams revealed that she has struggled with severe depression since she was a teen.
Months after reuniting with Destiny’s Child for Beyoncé’s Coachella performance in 2018, she checked into a mental health facility. Last December, she announced she was taking a leave of absence from her role as Erzulie in the Broadway musical “Once on This Island,” under doctor’s orders.
This year, Williams decided to lay low for the most part, saying, “I’m going to take time off and work on me so that I can get back out here and give the best of me and not an empty me.”
She found healing in an unlikely place: “The Masked Singer,” the competition show where disguised celebrities perform in elaborate costumes. Last week Williams was revealed to be the Butterfly character, at one point saying on the show the anonymity of performing in costume “helped take away the insecurities I have about my voice.”
Now she’s returning to the stage as the Wicked Queen in the Lythgoe Family Panto production “A Snow White Christmas,” which begins a limited L.A. run on Friday.
A holiday and family-friendly version of the classic tale, the musical is in the style of British panto, where audiences are encouraged to interact with performers. Since debuting in 2011, the show has featured other celebrity performers including Ariana Grande, Lucy Lawless and Neil Patrick Harris.
What led you to be part of “A Snow White Christmas”?
I have a theater background and so I just love doing theater — like every other year or so being involved in a production. It keeps my chops going and it’s just another way of expression. And I love that music is involved.
When I was asked to do this, I was curious about panto. It’s interactive musical theater, and most of the shows that I’ve done in the past, say like “Chicago” the musical or “The Color Purple,” people clap, people laugh when you say something funny. In panto, you can heckle people, you can boo them or you can cheer. So that’s what I was curious about.