A classically trained actress with a B.F.A. from New York University, Sharon Wilkins has gone from Shakespeare and Euripides to playing the afro-puff wearing, sassy prostitute Chi Chi in The Life. Now, back on Broadway as the Sour Kangaroo in Seussical, Sharon is grimacing and belting again as only she can. Having played Asaka regionally in Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' Once on This Island, she tells me what an honor it is to finally get to work with the duo directly on Seussical.
Wilkins' stage credits also include Bloody Mary in South Pacific and one of the most memorable roles in musical history: Effie, in the Paper Mill Playhouse production of Dreamgirls. On television, she has garnered critical praise as Mrs. Brown in ABC's Wonderland and will soon be featured in A&E's 100 Center Street. Coming soon to a big screen near you is Double Whammy, in which Wilkins appears with Elizabeth Hurley. For our TheaterMania chat, the personable Ms. Wilkins and I met up at a Dean and DeLuca's coffee shop across the street from the Richard Rodgers Theater, where Seussical is playing. The lady is hilarious, as delicious as coffee with a caramel shot. Read for yourself.
If you were a glass of wine, how would you be best described?
I'd have a say "a hearty Beaujolais."
What are some of your most memorable theater experiences, as an audience member and as a performer?
When I was 14 years old, my chorus teacher brought us to New York and we saw Evita with Patti LuPone. I was so amazed, I was crying. And I said to my teacher, "I think I can do that!" As a performer, one of my favorites is Dreamgirls--you just can't touch that. And Once on This Island, because it was so wonderful to be involved with Steve's and Lynn's music. Oh, and The Life was another great experience. You know, we worked on that for so many years before anybody had ever heard of it, and I still always put it in my bio.
Who was your teenage heartthrob?
Jermaine Jackson. He was the one for me.
Who is your favorite character from a novel?
What place have you always dreamed of visiting?
I've been to a lot of places: all over Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok. I'd really love to go to Hawaii--anywhere in Hawaii. Oh, and Africa. And Egypt.
What are your three favorite films?
Man, these questions are so hard. There are just so many! I'm going to say The Color Purple, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Imitation of Life.
Whom would you most like to work with?
I've already worked with Samuel L. Jackson. As far as actors are concerned, I'd also love to work with Denzel Washington. And for composers, of course Stephen Sondheim.
Do you think that George W. Bush is the devil?
Well, I don't think that he's the devil, but I certainly think that he's misguided.
What's in your CD player right now?
The name of the CD is Who's Jill Scott? She's new. Listen to her; she's great.
What skill or talent do you wish that you possessed?
I wish that I could play the piano.
What do you most fear?
What's your favorite libation?
As a child, whom did you most admire?
My mother, Shirley Wilkins.
And whom do you most admire today?
Ditto. Still my mother.
Who are the three greatest actresses working today?
Julianne Moore, Alfre Woodard, and Mary Alice.
What are your three favorite books?
The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker, Race Matters by Cornel West, and J. California Cooper's Some Soul to Keep.
Do you have any pets?
No, but I do love cats.
What is your greatest extravagance?
I love pretty things. I love beautiful candles, and flowers in beautiful vases. I love luxurious bath products that smell great.
What is your favorite holiday?
What's your favorite brand of coffee?
I like flavored coffee. And there's a great coffee that comes from Louisiana in a yellow package. It has chicory in it, and it's so good.
What is the strangest thing a fan has ever said or sent to you?
It's funny when people tell me I was wonderful in a show that I wasn't even in. Oh, and a fan brought me a chocolate cake in the shape of a red shoe while I was in The Life. That was great.
I'd like to end with some preference questions. Lillias White or Betty White?
James Joyce or Joyce Dewitt?
Subway or bus?
Bus. I love the bus.
The Love Boat or Fantasy Island?
Charles Nelson Reilly or Paul Lynde?
Charles Nelson Reilly.
Ross Perot or Ralph Nader?
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