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Broadway Q&A: Kristin Chenoweth of ‘For The Girls’

Category Broadway

|by Jeryl Brunner |

What drives the performing powerhouse: “Authentic truth is very freeing.”

Wicked alumna Kristin Chenoweth has come a long way since her time in Oz. The Emmy and Tony Award-winning actress has been busy with a variety of eclectic productions. Her latest album For The Girls pays tribute to some of the great singers who have influenced her, including Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, Eva Cassidy, Carole King and Judy Garland. The record features her interpretations of 12 classic songs, including"The Way We Were,” “When I Fall In Love,” "The Man That Got Away, “I Will Always Love You,” and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” On several tracks, she sings with Dolly Parton, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson and Reba McEntire. Her Hallmark Hall of Fame film, A Christmas Love Story, recently debuted on the Hallmark Channel. She performed with iconic Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra in their annual Christmas concert and appeared in the special, Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir. Most recently, Chenoweth joined the “This Is Pain” campaign, which seeks to improve the lives of American adults who live with chronic pain. Chenoweth is also touring the country in concert.

Kristin Chenoweth is currently touring the country with her album, 'For the Girls' (Photo: Andrea di Stefano)

Kristin Chenoweth is currently touring the country with her album, 'For the Girls' (Photo: Andrea di Stefano)

I realize you have a lot of projects, but do you have plans to come back to perform on Broadway?
Kristin Chenoweth: I’m attached to a couple of projects. One is Death Becomes Her, which was a movie with Meryl Streep. There is another one about Browning Wise, who is the woman behind Tupperware, who no one knows about. And I have another one about Tammy Faye.

What was one of the first Broadway shows you ever saw? Did you come to New York from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma where you grew up?
KC: We couldn't afford to come to New York and see shows because it's expensive to get a hotel for a family of four. My parents were awesome, and took me to everything they could in Tulsa. I remember the first thing I really wanted to see was A Chorus Line. I was so young. I remember my mom holding her hands over my ears during certain parts.

When I first came to New York, I was on a school trip while at Oklahoma City University. I wanted to see the musical Gypsy, the Tyne Daly (version). And I couldn't afford a seat, but I could afford to stand in the back. So I bought a ticket, but could barely see over the railing in the back. I thought, “Dang it!” I stood on my tippy toes for two and a half hours. I said, “I am going to live here. And one day, I'm going to be up there.” Not only did I speak it, but I saw it. There's a lot to be said for manifesting things in the universe. But I also worked my butt off.

What was it like to perform with the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra in their annual Christmas concert and create the Christmas with The Tabernacle Choir special?
KC: When I was a kid, there was something like three stations on TV. I always watched the Tabernacle Christmas show, Miss America and the Tonys. So I wanted to perform with them for several years. It’s a rite of passage. It gave me an opportunity to sing operatically, which was how I was trained. And I was able to sing Christmas music that I love. There were 200 singers behind me and 200 musicians in front of me. I had to be prepared. So I went one week early, rehearsed and got used to the altitude. Whenever I sang with them and heard their 200 voices, it was emotional. These are people who are not being paid, but are there because they want to be. I'm not Mormon, but to be with people, making music, made me cry.

What advice would you offer younger people who want to pursue a career in the arts?
KC: So many things. I have noticed with our younger generation, they think, “I'll give myself a year.” I say, "Then you don't love it enough." They want to know how to become famous. I say, “Do a reality show.” If you love it more than anything else in this world and see yourself doing nothing else the way I did – I didn't even consider doing anything else with my life – it wasn't even a choice. Well, I should never do math. But I knew I would be doing something in the arts. And if that meant being a teacher, I would do that. I want the young artists to know that things don't happen overnight. And I know that Instagram and the influencers are so cool. Even I get makeup tips from watching them. I learn so much. But if you want to be an artist, you need to study. You need to move to New York, Chicago, LA or Atlanta and work at it. And if you put yourself on a time limit, then maybe you shouldn't do it.

So what guidance would you offer your younger self?
KC: To my little self, I would say, “Don't sweat the small stuff.” There are so many bigger things in life to be concerned about than getting your panties in a wad over small things that don't count.

Your latest studio album, For The Girls, pays tribute to the women who inspire you. How did it come about?
KC: My music producer, Steve Tyrell, and I started working on it two years ago. I didn't set out to do a female empowerment record. It worked out to be kinda hip completely by accident. I wanted to honor the women who came before me, and what I grew up listening to. At first, it scared me. I had the anxiety of “Are you sure you want to do ‘The Way We Were’?” It took my evolution and understanding that I wanted to put my stamp on things, and yet tip my hat to these women. I thought, “I'm going to sing the song differently than Barbra Streisand, Carole King and Judy Garland. But I'm going to pay homage to them.”

It was amazingly healing. I got to sing with people who I look up to so much, like Dolly (Parton) and Reba (McEntire). And then there are my “youngins,” Ariana (Grande) and Jennifer (Hudson). I can't believe they said “yes.” I keep playing my album and think, “Oh yeah, they said ‘yes.’” Just checking.

Who inspired you when you were growing up?
KC: Julie Andrews singing “The Hills Are Alive” on the top of the hill. I thought, “Maybe I’m going to do that?” Also, I sang in church. Of course, I loved the applause. But when I was singing, I felt it was true. What I’ve learned is when you speak or sing your truth, nobody can get too mad at you. They might not agree, but authentic truth is very freeing.
For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the 15 Most Highly Anticipated Broadway Shows of 2020

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