News Column

Kristin Chenoweth bringing all her talents to Provincetown

August 2, 2014

By Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Aug. 02--If you're headed to Kristin Chenoweth's early concert on Aug. 10 at Provincetown Town Hall, and a friend is at her later show that night, the two of you may get to see somewhat different sides of the Broadway star's wide-ranging talent and repertoire.

Chenoweth is headed home later this month to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma for concerts that will be filmed for the November finale to the PBS Arts Fall Festival that Chenoweth is hosting for the first time. And, during her debut in Provincetown, she says, she's going to be experimenting with song choice as part of getting ready to welcome PBS audiences to the hometown theater named after her.

"I'm going to do probably two different shows. There are staple songs I'm always going to sing, but I'm going to try out some different stuff," she says in a phone interview, including new songs that fit well at recent concerts at Carnegie Hall and London'sRoyal Albert Hall. "I'm very eclectic with my musical tastes. " I like to show that, and I like to use that and challenge myself. So that's kind of what I'm thinking."

Those eclectic tastes, though, come not from trying to avoid being limited by expectations about the type of music she sings, but because her career has been so multi-faceted. "I'm just so lucky in my career. All the roles I've done have been kind of different. Very different, actually."

Chenoweth's music concentrated more on gospel and opera in her early years before she made musical theater a career focus. She worked in regional theater and off-Broadway before her Broadway debut, at age 29, in "Steel Pier" in 1997. She won a Tony Award playing little sister Sally in 1999's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," and her most famous Broadway role came in 2003 when she originated the role of Glinda in "Wicked."

Chenoweth starred in "Candide" (with the New York Philharmonic) and then Broadway's "The Apple Tree" and "Promises, Promises," with Burt Bacharach tunes from the latter among the songs she sang in her recurring, award-nominated role as troubled graduate April Rhodes on TV's "Glee."

She sang and danced for TV musicals of "The Music Man" and "Annie," but is also known for non-singing roles on TV's "The West Wing" and "Pushing Daisies," as well as film roles in movies that include "Bewitched," "RV" and "The Pink Panther."

Her concert career has been a recent career focus, and she's proud of how varied the song selections are based on all her experience.

"I am constantly trying to challenge myself -- as an artist, as a singer, as a person and as a woman. All these things," she says. "I know that people go, 'Oh, that's her schtick, she does a lot of different things. She does country and theater and opera,' and you know what? I wouldn't call it my schtick so much as I would call it what brings me joy.

"What songs I pick are for a reason. I don't just sing something to sing it. It's all part of the story for me.. " As much as I love to do things that show what my voice can do, it's never gratuitous. It's never just to show off. Some of the best things I do are very small, limited, quiet things, you know? What's most pleasing to me are those songs."

Quiet isn't the image Chenoweth usually projects, being recognized more for a fast-talking, bubbly, outgoing and often comic persona. She's known for being just 4-foot-11-inches tall, but often having a big smile, an expressive face and manner, and extravagant gestures in her performances.

Treasuring the quiet moments in her concerts, though, has happened more and more in the past couple of years, she says.

"I have learned that you earn those quiet moments, if you will and they become just magical. You have to earn 'em, though because it's more that I want the audience to come to me and listen to me in those moments. " It's a beautiful thing when you have an audience that's willing to go on a ride with you, because I think it's a team effort, if that makes any sense. It's both of us, the audience and myself."

Chenoweth will be back on a Broadway stage next year with the announced revival, with Peter Gallagher, of the musical "On the Twentieth Century." She's wanted to do the show for years, since she heard about it from friend Adolph Green, the show's co-writer and lyricist. "Before Adolph passed away (in 2002), he said, 'Kristin, there's a show you must do. " It's seldom that a person comes along that can do this part and you've got to do it. It's got to be on your list.' And I've never forgotten it."

In the comic operetta, Chenoweth will play a temperamental actress who producers need to convince to do their show in the time it takes a train to cross the country. The role was originated in 1978 by Madeline Kahn, an actress who could also do comedy and opera -- and, actually, is the namesake for one of Chenoweth's dogs.

"I've always loved (Kahn). I've always kind of thought there's something about me that reminds me of her and her of me and, I don't know, I've just always felt like I understood her and I get her," Chenoweth says. "I'm just excited that now people are going to get to see (the show), my young fans are going to get to see it."

And while she enjoys doing television and film, Chenoweth says she feels most successful in those mediums when she's made a cameraman or prop master -- her audience -- laugh or cry.

"I'm such a creature of being in front of a live audience," she says. "It's what I prefer."


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Source: Cape Cod Times (Hyannis, MA)

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