On killing a man, being a lady, and channeling Grace Kelly
Question: You’re playing Margot, Grace Kelly’s iconic role, in the Jungle Theater’s Dial M for Murder. How will you channel your inner princess?
Cheryl Willis: Well, I can’t be Grace Kelly, although I am on a bit of a diet. So I’ve learned what life was like for a higher-class woman in the 1950s—and what perfume she wore. I always find a scent for my characters.
Q: Good thing you’re not playing a corpse. What other tricks will you use?
CW: I’m going to do everything I can to feel immaculate and untouched: get my nails painted, get my hair done, keep the ol’ armpits shaved.
Q: Margot famously stabs an attacker with oversized scissors. Can you imagine this?
CW: I’ve done lots of Agatha Christie plays—I’m not new to killing or being killed. But it will be fun to kill Peter Moore [playing the attacker].
Q: Most people are more familiar with Alfred Hitchcock’s version of Dial M than the original play. Are they very different?
CW: I think all of us want to stay as clear of the movie as possible to bring people something new. It will be wild and far-out.
Q: Jungle artistic director Bain Boehlke had you in mind for Margot from the start. How nice is it to skip auditions?
CW: I’ve done crappy roles. I’ve worked for nothing. I’ve worked hard to get here—and it’s such a delight.
Q: This is the third Jungle show in which you’re the only woman in the cast. What’s it like being the leading lady?
CW: Well, with this cast—Terry Hempleman, Fred Wagner, Michael Booth, Peter Moore—they’re all so handsome, I’m glad I’m the only woman!
Dial M for Murder opens February 3 at the Jungle Theater, jungletheater.com