Best known as a founding member of the legendary Motown group The Supremes, the original trio of divas who recorded 12 No. 1 hits from 1964 to 1969, Mary Wilson has her fingers in many pies. She’s a best-selling author, motivational speaker, businesswoman, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador and, starting tomorrow night, will be joining the cast of Menopause the Musical as the fifth cast member for a string of special performances. The play, which also stars Teri Adams, Linda Boston, Megan Cavanagh and Patti Gardner, explores the challenges (memory loss, hot flashes and night sweats, to name a few) of the late-in-life biological change called menopause. At 73 years old, it’s an event Wilson can relate to.
Folio Weekly caught up with the singer, performer and all-around delightful lady to chat about her new role.
Folio Weekly: How did it come about that you would perform in Menopause The Musical?
Mary Wilson: I love doing theater and I’ve been doing theater on-and-off for 30-something years. I’ve done musicals and comedies and this and that. Living in Vegas, you get a lot of chances to see things that come through town. One of my friends was in Menopause, so I went to see it and fell in love. It was hilarious. I just laughed the entire time. They asked me if I wanted to do it, so I decided to go ahead and accept the offer.
Have you been rehearsing a lot?
I’ve actually only had about two weeks of rehearsals, so it’s going to be a fun opening night. I rehearsed with the choreographer and I rehearsed in LA with the musical director, so it hasn’t been a “one place” rehearsal. It’s sort of been disjointed. I’m always traveling and touring, so it’s kind of hard to pin me down.
You perform as the fifth girlfriend in the play. Was the musical rewritten to include your role?
Originally, they had Cindy Williams [Laverne & Shirley] as a guest artist and so they just add the guest artist in along with the four members of the cast. The celebrities who come in and meet the four ladies, we just become part of the girlfriend group. They rewrote a lot of popular songs from the ’50s and the ’60s, but they put different lyrics to, say, Tina Turner’s song and different girl group songs, but they changed the lyrics to relate to menopause. It’s just so well written and really really funny.
What is it about the musical that speaks to you on a personal level?
I think if you’re a woman, it’s personal because it [menopause] happens. If you’re young, you haven’t experienced it, but all of the females in your family—your mom, your aunts, your grandmas—experienced it. In my case, I grew up in the black community in Detroit. I was surrounded by women who were constantly hot and sweatin’ and they talked about it amongst each other. It was something that I always knew about, but didn’t think it would happen to me because I was so young. The play really touches on every experience a woman could have going through menopause, but the way it’s presented is just so funny and has everyone laughing.
What new projects are you working on right now?
Well, I’m looking at this mess in my bedroom and trying to figure out how I’m going to get it all into this suitcase, so that I don’t have any extra charges on my suitcase with the airline. But yeah, it’s just one of those things that if you enjoy what you’re doing . . . and I really do. I mean, for 50-something years, I’ve done this in one way or another. I’ve written a couple of books. I’m always touring. I’ve done command performances. I’ve been in one of the most famous female groups in the world. You get it all done because you enjoy it. Yes, it’s hard work. But if you have to work hard, you might as well enjoy what you’re doing.
You’re 73 years old. How do you keep healthy, physically and mentally, with such a busy life?
I’m not the kind of person that sticks to anything really hard, but I do go to yoga when I’m home and I have some other therapies that I do because I have a couple of little health issues. I drink lots of water. I never go to bed with my makeup on. I do eat healthy most of the time, but sometimes I’ll just break down and have what I want to have. And I always try and be nice to people and keep a very, very positive attitude no matter what’s going on in my life.
What advice would you offer to a young performer looking to get into show business?
Probably the same thing I would say to any young people embarking upon their life’s experience and that is to try and find . . . I know that everybody has to pay their bills and we cannot all be rich and famous, so sometimes you have to work hard. My advice is to try and find something that you enjoy doing and always have a back-up plan.