Kristin Chenoweth Speeds Ahead

In preparation for her concert at Long Island’s Tilles Center, the Tony and Emmy winner chats about her full plate.

Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth will perform tonight at Long Island's Tilles Center.
Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth will perform tonight at Long Island's Tilles Center.
(photo courtesy of the Tilles Center)

Is there anything that this leading lady cannot do? An Emmy and Tony Award winner (for Pushing Daisies and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, respectively), Kristin Chenoweth‘s career spans stage, television, and film, all of which is chronicled in her memoir, A Little Bit Wicked. Ironically, the powerhouse voice behind a tiny 4-foot-11 frame is anything but Wicked, the musical for which she received a Tony nod in 2004. Chenoweth has since added The Apple Tree and Promises, Promises to her Broadway credits, and she continues to share songs from her shows on her concert tour. With a stop at Long Island’s Tilles Center for the Performing Arts February 7, a return to Glee as songstress April Rhodes, and a possible Broadway appearance on the horizon, Ms. Chenoweth shows no signs of slowing down.

Your career has spanned so many different musicals and projects. How have you decided what to perform at Tilles Center?

Being that I’ll be in New York, I know a lot of people there will know me from Broadway, but I will include songs that I grew up singing in church as well as hearing on the radio. Everyone will get a little bit of everything! I like to always honor the place I’m in, so I switch music in and out and sometimes add new songs; sometimes I add songs that I haven’t sung in twenty years. It just depends on who my audience will be and what I’m feeling in that moment.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on the opening night of Broadway's Wicked in 2003.
Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth on the opening night of Broadway's Wicked in 2003.
(© Joseph Marzullo)

Do you model your concerts and/or performing style after other performers? Who inspires the way you perform and design your concerts?

I think every artist is specific, but there are certainly artists [who] I admire in the way they entertain. Sometimes the greatest singers aren’t the best entertainers and vice versa. Certainly when I go see Dolly Parton I leave full, and I am so happy that I have been entertained. That is a career that I look at, not just because she is still at it, but the longevity of her still writing her own music.

Now that your former Wicked costar Idina Menzel is returning to Broadway, in If/Then, I think the question on everyone’s lips is, "When is Kristin coming back?" What would you like to see yourself doing if/when you return?

There is never a question of if; it’s only a question of when. As long as Broadway will have me I will always come back to my home. That could be within the next year.

There is so much variety in what you choose to take on. Choose two of your favorite projects from the past five years and tell us why they hold special meaning for you.

Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth
in the 2010 Broadway revival of Promises, Promises.
Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth
in the 2010 Broadway revival of Promises, Promises.

(© Joan Marcus)

I have certainly enjoyed the new concert that I conceived for the Hollywood Bowl. It was a lot of new material for me. It was in the summer in August and singing in that space and dedicating the night to songs from Hollywood movies made it very special for me. You could tell the audience really wanted to be there, and it was just a magical night…Being on Broadway with Sean Hayes doing Promises, Promises was also pretty special. He’s one of my best friends and getting to see him every day, laugh, have fun, and be with the cast and crew at that theater was a memory I so enjoyed. It was a role that not a lot of people would cast me in, so it was challenging artistically for me as well, and I really miss it.

What brings your character April back to Glee for the 100th episode?

She’s got glee clubs to save and drinks to drink!

How do you feel that musical theater has had an impact on television in recent years?

I think that musical theater has become very accessible in a way that I am very proud of, with shows like Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots, and certainly Once with music by the Academy Award winners themselves. Of course I have to include Wicked in that. It has become so accessible. Glee has introduced all kinds of music from Broadway shows, and has been a wonderful addition to our art form.

It seems that each year on Broadway there are trends, with this year seeing lots of sports and Shakespeare. What type of trend would you like to see come to the stage?

One of my favorite movies was not a hit at the box office and that’s Shining Through with Michael Douglas and Melanie Griffith. I always thought that would make a great love story for the stage. It takes place during the war with people fighting for their lives, dealing with Nazis and Hitler, and at the center of it is this beautiful love story. In my opinion, what happens is a part of history that I’d like to see, because out of something so horrible there was deep love. I would love to see more of our history on Broadway.

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