All-male productions obviously mean some guys have to take female roles. Ryan Williams, a gay 33-year-old Philadelphia native, is proving he’s game for it as Miss Mona Stangley (played by Dolly Parton in the film version) in the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s production this weekend of “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
It opens tonight at 8 at the Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington University campus. Additional performances are Saturday at 8 and Sunday at 3. Tickets range from $30 to $50. Visit gmcw.org for more information.
Williams is excited about the show.
“The Chorus shines brightest when they do a stage production of this magnitude,” he says. “It requires so many talents beyond singing and dancing. Every detail you see on stage, from the intricate design of the massive set to the ’70s-era costumes, are taken with great care and love to deliver a great performance.”
He calls it “a gorgeous show.” It tells of a Texas-based brothel in the late ’70s that’s been around for 100 years but faces heat when a TV reporter starts investigating. The original opened on Broadway in 1978 and enjoyed a four-year run.
Williams says “Hard Candy Christmas,” which the Chorus previewed at its holiday concert last year, is his favorite moment.
“It’s a song filled with such raw emotion and after getting to know these talented guys over the past few months, it feels like they’re leaving my home for real every time I hear it,” he says.
Williams has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in the Chorus for seven. He’s on the Chorus’s board of directors and development committee. He also participated in Chorus productions of “Grease” and “Wizard of Oz.”
By day, he’s a partner in a non-profit consulting firm. He moved to the area upon finishing college at Penn State.
He’s always loved music and says every life should have its own soundtrack. Williams is single and lives in Arlington. He also enjoys politics, arts, travel, entertaining, college football and discovering great restaurants.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been out since June 2000. The hardest person to tell was my mother. Her response was as if she had dusted off the PFLAG manual from her nightstand and read off the bullet points on what to say when her son FINALLY comes out. The weight was lifted and I regret never doing it sooner.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I worked at a large non-profit during my coming out experience that had three openly gay men in various departments. They were heroes to me and never knew it because they led by example. They each excelled in their careers, grew in personal and professional relationships and lived their lives openly and honestly in a conservative work environment. To me, heroes aren’t the celebrities who come out as part of their PR strategy or musicians who use our community for album sales. They’re the everyday women and men who live their lives fully and expect basic human rights.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Annie’s Paramount Steak House at 3 a.m. on a Saturday night! I swear it looks like the Cantina scene from “Star Wars.” I love people watching and after a great night out, Annie’s has never let me down.
Describe your dream wedding.
Come back to me when I have a fiance. Hell, come back to me when I’m dating regularly. For now, know the wedding must feature “As” by Stevie Wonder.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Youth voice and empowerment. Nothing freaks me out more than a young person who doesn’t feel as though they can freely speak their mind.
What historical outcome would you change?
Nothing. Everything happens for a reason.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
Performing at the Obama inauguration concert in front of millions on HBO as the chorus backed up Heather Headley and Josh Groban on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. To be backstage and meet Queen Latifah, Tom Hanks and Sheryl Crow was amazing! I even led an impromptu singing of “My Cherie Amore” with, yes, you guessed it, Stevie Wonder.
On what do you insist?
If you’ve gone an entire day without saying “thank you,” you’re leading a sad existence.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Thank You TIVO for the TRAIN WRECK that is Celebrity Apprentice #GaryBusey
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Say What? Tales of a Thirty-Something Smart Ass”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I’d ask the scientists why haven’t they discovered a cure for Multiple sclerosis, cancer or HIV — priorities people, priorities!
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I believe in God. It’s the organized religions that turn me off.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
What would you walk across hot coals for?
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Trick” (1999). The scene between Mark and Gabriel before they leave the diner bathroom is one of the most romantic scenes I’ve ever seen.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Did I mention the self-loathing?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
My late grandfather’s wristwatch.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Do you remember that guy who asked you for your number at the rush party on fraternity row? He’s gay and will go on to be a doctor. Lighten up and give him your number, fool!
D.C. is a great cadre of villages and neighborhoods with its own individual style and substance. Even after 10 years, there is still so much to learn and discover.