If you missed Kristin Chenoweth’s appearance at Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) last September, or if you just can’t get enough and want to hear her again, I have great news for you. Ms. Chenoweth is coming back to MPAC for two encore performances later this week, on Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24!
Emmy- and Tony-Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth has been a major star of stage and screen for nearly two decades, known especially for her performances in “Wicked” on Broadway, “Pushing Daisies” and “Glee” on TV, and a number of voice and live-action film roles.
But of course, she captured everyone’s heart in 1999, not only for her amazing performance as Sally in the Broadway production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” but for her appearance at the Tony Awards that year, when she won the award for Best Actress in a Featured Role – Musical.
Immediately after the cast of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” performed their number for the telecast, was the announcement of the Best Featured Actress in a Musical award (you can probably see where I’m going with this). While the nominees’ names were read, Chenoweth has to perform the fastest quick-change of her life, she said, just in case she won the award and had to go right back on stage. Well, of course she won, not only the award, but our hearts as well when she had to run back onstage with joy and disbelief to accept her award.
You probably know by now that I am an avid musical theater fan, and watch the Tony Awards telecast every year. This moment with Chenoweth still makes my running list of top 5 Tony moments (though I don’t think anything can ever knock Neil Patrick Harris’ 2013 opening number out of my #1 slot).
But back to the present! The concerts at MPAC, entitled “An Evening with Kristin Chenoweth: Opening Night Encore Performance!” will feature performances of Broadway favorites and pop standards, many of which will be drawn from her new CD being released this Friday, called “The Art of Elegance.”
Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview Ms. Chenoweth by email for this piece, about the upcoming MPAC performances and her new CD. Enjoy (I sure did)!
Culture Vultures: Will the Mayo concerts be featuring works from “The Art of Elegance?” Can you give us any hints about what songs we might hear?
Kristin Chenoweth: My concerts at Mayo PAC mark the date my album releases. I will definitely be representing the album, at least two to three songs, and they may be different both nights.
CV: For those audience members at the Mayo concerts who maybe haven’t seen you perform or who haven’t attended a concert like this before, what can they expect from the evening?
KC: I first and foremost hope that they are entertained. I love to tell people who I am as a person by the music that I sing. There’s something for everyone all kinds of music, and just fun.
CV: What is your favorite piece on the CD and why?
KC: There are several songs on the CD that are my favorites. It never occurs to me to pick one. I do enjoy Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well.” It’s a standard that doesn’t feel overdone. And of course there is the song “Smile,” which many great artists have put their stamp on. And now I have my stamp.
CV: How do you choose the order of the songs to be performed in these kinds of concerts? Is the order pretty much the same at every concert? Do you ever change the set during performance?
KC: The show usually changes in little ways here and there along the way. That’s what’s fun about being an artist—nothing is written in stone. The order is important because I do want the audience to go on the journey with me and enjoy the complete arc that we have created. In my mind, there’s no such thing as haphazard work.
CV: Performing a concert like this must feel very different than when you are on stage as part of a music theater show. Can you tell me about how it feels to perform a concert like this? How do you prepare to go on stage every night?
KC: It feels a little bit more vulnerable. When you are playing a character, you make choices as that character. In concert, you make choices as yourself. At least that’s how I choose to do it. That’s how the audience gets to know you. If people want to see me on Broadway in a musical, that’s a very different thing. I prepare with vocal warmups, focus, trying to be quiet, and I always pray.
CV: You have such an amazing stage presence and seem to connect with an audience with little effort. Is that something that comes naturally to you, or have you had to work on it, as an aspect of stagecraft?
KC: I think it’s both. I think it comes naturally to me and I try to hone and make it better.
CV: I’ve read that the Sinatra song was the last to be chosen for “The Art of Elegance,” but what was the first song you selected? Or were there any songs that you knew just HAD to be included on the recording?
KC: I knew I would sing “Smile” because I sang it three years ago at the Hollywood Bowl and I knew it was my song… I didn’t see how I couldn’t include it.
CV: You have tremendous range as a musical theater actress and singer and you’ve performed so much in your career so far. But the canon is so vast – is there a musical theater role that you’ve always wanted to perform, but haven’t yet?
KC: Of course there’s the usual suspects like “Mame” and “Hello Dolly,” “Gypsy”… For some reason I think my best role hasn’t been written yet.
CV: In my day job, I’m the director of marketing and communications at OPERA America, the national nonprofit service organization for opera, and I know that you’re a classical trained vocalist. So I can’t help but ask an opera question: as a talented performer with operatic training, what opera character do you most identify with and why?
KC: “Olympia.” Someone takes her off the shelf, winds her up, and she goes. It’s an incredible score.
Kristin Chenoweth performs at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, located at 100 South Street in Morristown, NJ on Friday, September 23 and Saturday, September 24, both at 8:00 p.m. Tickets range from $79 to $149 and can be purchased online at mayoarts.org or by phone at 973.539.8008.