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EXCLUSIVE: Kristin Chenoweth Is Thrilled to Make History With Andrew Lippa in I Am Harvey Milk

Chenoweth discusses this one-night-only concert event, chronicling the life and assassination of the first openly gay man to hold public office in California.

Old friends Kristin Chenoweth and Andrew Lippa will perform together in the New York debut of Lippa's I Am Harvey Milk.
(© David Gordon)

Kristin Chenoweth is set to lead a one-night concert performance of composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa's hybrid choral/theatrical work (or oratorio) I Am Harvey Milk on October 6. The event, described as "an emotional celebration" of the eponymous American icon, stars Chenoweth alongside Lippa at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall.

Harvey Milk became the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1978. Milk, who was an advocate for gay rights while in office, was assassinated along with Mayor George Moscone only 11 months after Milk's election. "I Am Harvey Milk is an ode to a man who tried single-handedly to change the world," Chenoweth told TheaterMania.

Though the work made its world premiere in San Francisco last year, this will be the first time I Am Harvey Milk has been performed in New York and the first time Chenoweth has had the chance to lend her sumptuous soprano to Lippa's newest work. As Chenoweth explained to TheaterMania, she was originally supposed to participate in the West Coast production but was forced to withdraw due to scheduling conflicts.

"It was a real bummer," Chenoweth remembered, "so the fact that it's come back around to me means a lot to me."

Even more important to Chenoweth, however, is the piece's historical relevance. Proceeds from the event will be used to create the Harvey Milk Arts Fund at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, an organization that will provide arts education and resources to the students at Harvey Milk High School and other at-risk youth who benefit from HMI's services.

"Considering that we're still fighting this human-rights issue…historically speaking, I think that this is an important piece," she noted, "I think that New York will so appreciate what Andrew Lippa has done with this subject matter…I think this will be the thing that sets him apart from other great composers."

Chenoweth has had the opportunity to work with Lippa on several other occasions. Their first collaboration was in 1999, when Chenoweth performed Lippa's "My New Philosophy" during her Tony-winning run in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown. "We have such a history together," she says, going on to mention that he was her music director for concerts at Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, and more. "It's an historic thing for me on many levels. I can't wait to share the stage with him. I can't wait to sing his music again. And I really can't wait for New York to be blessed by this concert."

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