‘I’m coming right into people’s homes,' she says
Sheila Williams’ slogan on her website couldn’t be more clear, more accurate or more direct: “I came to entertain.”
Scroll down the page and you’ll see what she means. There are pictures of her onstage, always smiling and carrying a microphone as naturally as if it were attached, wearing a glittering evening gown or an Elvis jumpsuit, dancing in Tina Turner heels or caught in the middle of a character monologue. The short videos that have earned her more than a million views since last spring are posted there, as are reviews from people and organizations praising her storytelling abilities, her singing voice, her comedic wit and authenticity.
An entertainer since 1990, Williams prides herself on offering a genuine show, engaging with her audience and drawing them in, delivering a sense of warmth and intimacy. The COVID-19 pandemic has dictated a stop to any intimate live concert event, but Williams has found a way to sing and joke around it. You might call her upcoming show “socially-distanced"; Williams calls it her most intimate yet.
“I’m coming right into people’s homes,” she explains. “What’s more intimate than that?”
On Thursday, Nov. 26, Williams will present “An Intimate Evening with Sheila Williams,” an online concert exclusive to ticket holders. Anyone who purchases a $10 ticket will be emailed, the day of the show, a link inaccessible to others, where Williams will perform live starting at 8 p.m. If you’re not sure what to do with the link when it arrives in your inbox, don’t worry — Williams has made you an instructional video with all the details on how to attend the concert from your own couch.
“It’s a fair question, I mean, this is all new to us,” Williams says of the video interactions that have taken the place of face-to-face meetings since the pandemic began in March. “I’ve said before, if your phone is not smart or your TV is not smart, let’s hope your youngsters are.”
Willams is formally trained in music, a founding member of Spirit of Newfoundland theatre company and loved equally for her comedy and her singing voice, on stages from here to Ireland. She began posting short comedy videos online last April at the suggestion of a friend, who told her it might be a nice pick-me-up for the community during the trying lockdown period. With the success of those, another friend suggested she do an online concert. Wiliams considered it, then decided to give it a go.
Her hour-long show will feature a full band and her fellow singer/dancer/actor Dana Parsons. There will be country music, rock music, pop music and jazz music — “And when I say jazz music, I mean ‘All About That Bass’ done jazz style,” Williams says. There’ll be comedy, guest appearances from her beloved alter-egos and a Christmas tribute to her cherished late mom. It’ll all be streamed online from a little studio at Canadian AV Inc. in St. John’s.
“What I thought about was, how do I make this transcend the boundary of a glass?” Williams says, divulging some of her tricks on the condition of secrecy until the show. “I’m hoping people will feel that energy. This is just a little bit of fun. You don’t have to think about anything and it’s just an hour of sitting back.”
Tickets for “An Intimate Evening With Sheila Williams” are available on her website, www.sheilawilliams.ca. Ticket holders who can’t make the 8 p.m. showtime on Thursday will have the chance to catch it at their convenience, since the video will remain active at the private link until late Sunday night.
Tara Bradbury reports on east coast culture in St. John's.