Across the world, Kristin Chenoweth is known as one of Broadway’s most famous singers, with a powerful voice, a quick wit and iconic blonde hair that launched a career that spans the stage, television and film.
She is widely known for her career-defining role as Glinda the Good in “Wicked,” for which she received a nomination for Best Actress in a Musical back in 2004. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a featured role as Sally in a revival of “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999. When not on stage, she can be seen in front of the camera with roles on shows such as “The West Wing,” “Glee” and “Pushing Daisies” and has graced the silver screen as well. In 2009, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for “Pushing Daisies.” She also has recorded five albums, including her recent release “The Art of Elegance.”
Baton Rouge fans will receive a chance to listen to the plucky songstress live this month with her concert “An Evening with Kristin Chenoweth: Celebrating The Art of Elegance.” The concert will be held on Thursday, March 16 at the Raising Cane’s River Center and will feature the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. Chenoweth sat down with DIG and gave insight into her upcoming performance, her current projects and her thoughts on Glinda post-“Wicked.”
DIG: Tell us a little bit about your show with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra. What can audiences expect?
Chenoweth: The fun part about my show is that I like to do it all! Music theatre, opera, country, Americana…live performance is my favorite address.
DIG: You’ve performed with a few different orchestras around the country. What’s the difference between doing this and being on Broadway in a full production?
Chenoweth: Everywhere it’s different. Every symphony orchestra is different and brings something different to the program. From the Sydney Opera House to Carnegie Hall, all the different places I’ve performed all over the world bring something special. On Broadway, it’s the same production every night, every week. It gives us plenty of time to get things right, hahaha!
DIG: Have you ever been to Baton Rouge or Louisiana before? What are some of the things you’re looking forward to with visiting the Red Stick?
Chenoweth: I opened the Saenger [Theatre] in New Orleans after Katrina. That was an incredible night. The mayor gave me the keys to the city. The people are fabulous in Louisiana. I even did a movie there a year and a half ago. I can’t wait to return. I’ve never performed in Baton Rouge; this’ll be my first.
DIG: Which songs are you excited to perform?
Chenoweth: I like to switch it up a lot. For the audience in Baton Rouge, I will sing everything from Mancini to Jerome Kern, to Jason Robert Brown, to Stephen Schwartz. I enjoy putting Dolly Parton and Don Henley in the program too. So you can see, it runs the gamut.
DIG: In regards to your new album, “The Art of Elegance,” which songs speak to you personally?
Chenoweth: Every single song on the album speaks to me personally, or I wouldn’t have recorded it. I started out with a list of about 800 songs. Haha!
DIG: Anything you can share about your upcoming performance on “American Gods?”
Chenoweth: I play the goddess of Easter. She is a unique character in that she is not who you would traditionally think she is. I got to work with an incredible cast and my favorite writer, Bryan Fuller. The show looks amazing. Based on the Neil Gaiman novel, it intrigues the audience with each character’s journey. It’s beautiful to look at. I can’t wait for it to have its premiere. My character doesn’t appear until the last episode. Everyone is truly amazing.
DIG: What’s on the horizon for your career? Anything you’d like to check off from your bucket list?
Chenoweth: I’ve always wanted to host SNL. I’d like to take some time off to write. Music seems to be coming out of me more and more. Of course, I want to make more albums and continue to grow and evolve as an artist. I’m a lifer; I don’t know how to do anything else. This is what I was born to do. I’m so happy when I’m on stage. That’s probably when I’m most happy.
DIG: What were some of the ways you prepared for the role of Glinda after you were cast?
Chenoweth: We started doing workshops of the show three years before it premiered on Broadway. So, I had plenty of time. I always felt Glinda was misunderstood just like Elphaba. She seemed to be this confident, cute girl with a lot of fashion sense. But I happened to look for the things in her that made her insecure. It was rooted in her insecurity. Sure, she was cute, but she didn’t have the real talent of magic like Elphaba. Glinda attracted men but was afraid to show her inner soul, which of course would keep them. Her evolution of coming to understand what true friendship and forgiveness were my favorite part of [her] arc.
DIG: I personally always felt heartbroken for Glinda at the end of “Wicked.” What are your thoughts on her future in the land of Oz?
Chenoweth: First of all, thank you. That’s what I wanted the audience to feel for Glinda: true heartbreak. She had to experience real loss of her truest friend so that she could grow and become truly good. If they were to do a sequel, my wish would be that Glinda is still ruling in a most compassionate, loving way, accepting of all, and most of all having secret, fun meetings with her buddy Elphaba, where they help each other.
DIG: Which musical most inspired you as a child?
Chenoweth: “The Sound of Music.” The second I saw Julie Andrews twirl on a mountain and sing about the hills being alive, I was in. There was nothing else I wanted to do. Nowhere else than in that movie theater would I have rather been. To this day, when I see that scene, I know she is the reason I fell in love with music and acting. Julie Andrews remains my queen. There are certain ladies who have formed my style and have made quite an impression on me. It’s all about Julie, Carol, Madeline Kahn and Dolly.
DIG: You’ve appeared on Broadway, television and movies, a triple threat, but what are some of the challenges with these art forms?
Chenoweth: The truth of the matter is whether you’re singing, acting, dancing, or doing a scene in a film, or creating a role on TV, or a concert, you have to be in the moment. Just like Oprah says we have to be in our life. It goes doubly so, in this particular art form. People can smell falseness a mile away on a camera, sitting in an audience, or watching a performance on television or being in a theater. I seem to have been handed a lot of roles who walk a very fine line between over the top and being a real fun character. The trick is walking that line. As long as everything, every note, every word, every action is true, no one can summon you to the acting police.
DIG: What are you doing when you’re not onstage or in front a camera?
Chenoweth: I’ve never directed behind a camera, but I hope to someday. I’m usually listening to music, reading, or watching a film, hanging with friends, the normal thing. Chilling out, playing with my dog.
Photo courtesy of Gian Andrea di Stefano