Emmy-nominated television talk-show host Wendy Williams is bringing her Wendy Williams’ Sit Down Tour … Too Real for Stand Up to an even dozen American cities this summer. On Friday night, Aug. 21st, the audience at the Durham Performing Arts Center was one of the first to hear her “not-for-prime-time” stories.
Williams, in her eighth season of the self-titled daytime talk show, is well-known for her celebrity clashes, as well as her signature “How you doin’?” But long before Williams came to the stage, the DPAC audience was warned by “The Wendy Williams Show’s” DJ Omariya that this show brings more of an adult flair to her commentary. He was right.
DJ Omariya began the show with the loud and raucous music list that weaves together the pieces of Williams’ TV show. As audience members filed in to their seats, the DJ asked them to dance in the aisles or to show their love for various eras. The audience, mostly female, obliged, getting into the spirit of the evening. The “warm-up” lasted almost an hour, making the Durham Performing Arts Center feel more like a small club party rather than a large performance venue.
And that small club might have been more appropriate for this show.
DPAC normally fills to capacity for a well-known performer, but Friday’s show barely filled half of the first floor. The long DJ session preceded two other acts: singer Kate Shelter, accompanying herself on piano for three sultry songs, and comedian Roy Wood Jr., whose well-shaped performance touched on recent issues (“this year was one of the worst years to be Black … since last year”) and evoked laughs that felt both knowing and surprised. A scheduled intermission before Williams’ appearance encouraged audience members to fill in the orchestra pit, which made it even more evident that the theater was fairly empty.
Williams’ arrived onstage in a glittery short gold dress to the accompaniment of DJ Omariya and began the night by reminding everyone that she would not be doing the tea-and-talk routine she normally conducts in her daytime show. This evening was not meant for stand-up comedy — “That’s not who I am. I’m not a comedienne, I’m a storyteller.” — and her stories would be raw and uncut.
Unfortunately, it seemed that Williams was embarrassed to be sharing her stories; and instead of delivering the tales of adult sex and stories that might not be appropriate for your mother with the panache she embraces on TV, she often apologized. The stories the women in the audience shared were often raunchier than the ones that Williams delivered onstage.
As she wove her tales (some accompanied by music of the era), she brushed back her long hair, took a sip of what appeared to be wine, and cackled. During the brief interlude before her next story, women murmured their understanding or commented that their experiences were actually more colorful than Wendy’s. That conversation between the audience and Wendy was what she gets on her talk show, and that conversation was missing on Friday evening at DPAC.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” Williams asked the audience, and the responding yells proved that they did. She asked for that feedback regularly, leading this reviewer to believe that the larger venue might not be the right one for this show. In Durham, this show would have worked better at The Carolina Theatre rather than the two thousand-plus seat theater at DPAC.
Wendy Williams made no secret of the fact that she is 51 years old, making self-deprecating jokes about a recent fall onstage and her “51-year-old comeback.” Her attitude declared her pride in age more definitively than if she’d carried a placard onstage. Throughout the performance, she referred to ageist issues like language. (“I call young people ‘dear.’ It’s the senior person’s equivalent of ‘motherf**ker.'”) She also pointed out the mistakes she’s made during her life, including her cocaine habit, underlining the lessons learned from living “her own truth” throughout her 51 years.
At times, the show struggled with its intention to be a “non-daytime show.” The elements Williams brought in that emulate the show (i.e., the DJ, the singer, the comedian) do create the feeling of an evening talk show (think Jay Leno without the monologue), yet what the audience really wanted was more depth from Williams herself. The summer tour is supposed to spark interest and build Williams’ audience; but if Friday night’s performance was any indication, that could backfire.
WENDY WILLIAMS’ SIT DOWN TOUR… TOO REAL FOR STAND UP (Durham Performing Arts Center, Aug 21st at DPAC in the American Tobacco Historic District).
SHOW: http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/wendy-williams and https://www.facebook.com/events/1583197835279683/.
PRESENTER/VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center.
Wendy Williams’ Sit Down Tour … Too Real for Stand Up (2015 comedy tour): http://wendywilliamstour.com/ (official website).
Wendy Williams (Asbury Park, NJ-born comedienne, talk-show host, and author): http://www.wendyshow.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=494623 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1829292/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/wendyshow (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/wendywilliams (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendy_Williams (Wikipedia).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater, music, and dance reviews. She is also a writer, editor, writing coach at Reno’s Literary Services of Durham. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Review reviews online at Triangle Arts and Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/. To read more of her writings, click http://dawnrenolangley.blogspot.com/ and http://poetryandgardening.blogspot.com/.