The actress, singer and former Miss America watched the matinee performance of "After Midnight" on Wednesday and then broke it to the cast backstage that she has signed up for a stint in the Broadway show celebrating Duke Ellington's years at the Cotton Club nightclub.
"It's an honor to jump in. It's a well-oiled machine, up and running and I think it'll be a perfect fit," Williams said afterward. She signed on before ever seeing the show and says it was an "easy, easy" decision to jump in.
Williams, who next month turns 51, will start as a guest vocalist on April 1 and end May 11, replacing Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds and Toni Braxton, who in turn replaced k.d. lang. Lang took over from Fantasia Barrino, who originated the part at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
The high energy show, directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, features two dozen musical numbers that showcase dance, jazz, tap or singing backed by 17 musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Williams, the former "Desperate Housewives" star, will be called on to sing four songs, including "Stormy Weather," ''I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "I've Got the World on a String." She said she enjoyed the music of that era when she was in the TV movie "Stompin' at the Savoy" in 1992.
What can people expect? "It'll be me," she said flirtatiously. "It won't be k.d. lang. It'll be me. The people that know me know what I bring. I love the music and it's our history. This is the music of African-Americans in New York."
The actress and singer has never recorded the four songs in the show and especially looks forward to the chance to make "Stormy Weather" her own. "Lena Horn is such an icon for me and her performance is emblazoned in my mind," she said. "To be able to do my version is phenomenal."
A three-time Emmy Award-nominated actress in "Ugly Betty," Williams has appeared on Broadway in "Into the Woods," "Kiss of the Spider-Woman" and "Sondheim on Sondheim." Last year, she starred opposite Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr. in "The Trip to Bountiful," which she just made into a film.
Williams also has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards and has had pop hits with "Save the Best For Last," "Dreamin,'" and "Colors of the Wind." She also wrote a memoir with her mother titled "You Have No Idea."