This month, Metropolis Nights magazine is proud to feature on the cover a true superstar… Broadway, film and television sensation Kristin Chenoweth. The multi-talented actress has done it all and has done it all better than anyone else. A true icon, Kristin seems to only get better with time.
Although just 4’11,” nobody on this Earth has a bigger voice or more talent. A Tony Award-winning star of stage and screen, Kristin originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the smash musical “Wicked” and won a Tony for 1999’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” On the silver screen, Kristin has been seen in such films as “Bewitched,” “The Pink Panther,” “Running with Scissors” and “Deck the Halls” just to name a few. She also made her mark on critically acclaimed television shows such as “Glee,” “The West Wing” and “Pushing Daises.”
The Tony and Emmy-winner will star in the “My Love Letter to Broadway” from Nov. 2-13 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. The petite singer also just released “The Art of Elegance,” a 13-track CD with classics like “A House is Not a Home,” ‘’Skylark” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” Not surprisingly, the album just went to number one on Billboard’s current jazz and traditional jazz charts! Finally, if all this weren’t enough, Kristin will star in NBC’s “Hairspray Live” on December 7th at 8pm. As our cover says, “What can’t she do?”
You’ve accomplished so much, where do we even begin? Your resume is off the charts.
(Laughs) I hear you! Sometimes I wonder, “What am I going to be doing today? Am I going to be dancing? Am I going to be singing?”
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
That my life is so rosy and great. But I’ve worked my butt off to get here. I have two degrees, and I’ve worked very hard to achieve what I have.
I have to admit, your life does seem pretty perfect. Beauty, talent, fame, fortune and, did I mention, beauty? Did you sell your soul to the devil?
(Laughs) No, I sold my soul to God.
I set you up for that.
And I love you for that! People have been given certain gifts in life, and these are mine. God has given us all gifts. You have gifts that I could never do. I’m just trying to do mine and, trust me sometimes I fail. That’s what I talk about in the book as well. I’ve made wrong decisions, and there have been parts I wanted and didn’t get.
Over the past decade you’ve been a part of nearly every hit television show created.
Yes, I’m there somewhere! Listen, it’s all a learning experience. It’s not about success and failure. It’s about learning.
But isn’t Hollywood the land of broken dreams for many people? I think they would argue your last comment.
New York and L.A. are so different. The one thing they have in common is that talent really does prevail. Lots of times, people in L.A. are given opportunities because of how they look. But in the end, I do believe that talent does prevail. In New York, they tell you if you got the part or not. In L.A., as you’re leaving the room, they’re thanking you and telling you you’re the next Betty Hutton, and you never hear from them again. That’s why I prefer New York. You always get the truth right up front.
Are you at a point now in your career where you can pick and choose the roles you play?
There are still things I want that go to other people. I still have disappointments. It’s very hard to say to someone who wants to go into this business to get ready for a lot of rejection but try not to take it personally. But, of course, you take it personally because it’s you they’re rejecting!
Did you take the cancellation of your sitcom “Kristin” personally?
I did, because it was my name. By the way, I was horrified when I found out that was going to be the name. I really was. I was 29, and it was my first TV show ever! I had just won a Tony. I never expected to do television. I just wanted to do Broadway. It was a huge deal for me. But what changed my whole heartbreak was 9/11. All of sudden the little TV show that got canceled didn’t seem to matter as much.
We live in a time where being infamous is sometimes better than being talented. Considering all your talent, does that bother you?
We live in a world now where you can be famous for having 14 children. You can be famous because you used to be famous, and now, you’re dancing on television. So now, we want to follow your every move. You can even be famous now because you write about famous people. I don’t understand it. It’s something I just don’t understand. How bad is it going to get? Watching death on television? Where does it stop? It scares me.
At the end of the day, it’s what sells. Don’t you agree?
We buy it. I obviously can’t say enough that I want it to be more about people’s work like in the old days. Even Marilyn Monroe, who had her own things going on the side, was working hard at her craft. I just feel I was born at the wrong time. I was born too late. That’s why I have my fingers in so many different things. That’s why I continue to sing all over the world. I just don’t do one thing because that one thing can let you down.
You’ve done everything there is to do in showbiz. Do you have a preference?
I like concert work, because I love the aspect of a live audience and I get to sing songs that maybe I wouldn’t normally get to do. I love a live audience in any way, in any venue. I also love, love, love character work. On television, for example, with Pushing Daisies and Glee and even GCB, I’ve played incredibly fun, complicated women. I enjoy that. There’s been some movies that very few people have seen that I’ve been in that I’ve been so proud of. As Dolly Parton says, “I’m proud of my children, just some more than others.” But, you know, it would be weird of me not to say that the live audiences. I do best under pressure. I know that about myself.
How does one go from church choir to show business?
I grew up in a home where all kinds of entertainment was watched. A lot of movies — a lot of movie musicals. My mom and dad really enjoyed them, which is interesting. They’re not really musical in any way but they love music. They listened to all kinds of records — from the Count Basie Orchestra to the Carpenters. Of course, we had all the Broadway musicals. I wanted to go to Broadway one day even though I didn’t know what it was. Sound of Music and Wizard of Oz were constants every year at my house. They used to play around Thanksgiving and Christmas. And if I missed them, it could be a really bad day. There weren’t a lot of things I had to see every year, but those were the nights I lived for. Then we had this thing called cassette tapes [Laughs]. I would get Phantom and Les Miserables, and I would just wear them out. I loved Amy Grant and Sandi Patty and Dolly Parton.
When did you first realize you had a special talent?
I had an incredibly high soprano as a child and my parents didn’t really know what to do with me. People in church were saying, “This girl has got an incredibly high range.” I took piano lessons and my piano teacher arranged for me to sing for the vocal department [at a local university] and they said, “You have a little bit of a soprano prodigy here. What do you want to do with her?” My parents gave me a choice — do you want to go to New York or do you want to be a kid in Oklahoma and do choir and drama and church and try out for plays? I chose that. And I’m really glad I did, because I wanted to be a kid, but deep down the very, very old soul in me knew I was going to do it for a living. There was going to be plenty of time to work.
How do you feel about your high voice?
It’s incredibly difficult for me to hear myself on a recording, speaking or singing – that I can listen to, and critique it and listen to it. I feel like a combination of Betty Boop, Marilyn Monroe, and a 5 year old. And my voice will never have balls in it. And that’s good. It is a unique voice. It is probably a voice that some find, I’m sure, annoying, but it is mine. And more so than when I walk down the street it’s when I speak that people recognize me. So I think surely it’s probably hurt me in my career, but mostly it’s been a blessing. It’s unique. But I’m never going to be a sex call operator. It’s never going to happen.
How do you juggle everything?
The truth is . . . I had to miss some family things and relationships with the opposite sex have been sort of tricky because my career is my child. There’s been sacrifice. But it’s sacrifice I’m willing to make.
What do you do when you’re not performing. If there is ever a time when you’re not actually performing?
When I step away from it, I wish I could tell you that I just party and let go and go to town. But the truth is, I’m in my pajamas watching bad television or catching up on all my favorite TV shows. I love to hike and walk. I love to just, you know, chill out. That’s what I do in my free time. And I love to be with the people I love the most and that love me.
Let’s talk about the track list for your new album, “The Art of Elegance.” It contains some of the most romantic songs ever written, including Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” and Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered.” Why did you decide on an album of classic pop?
I tried to put my own spin on songs by the great Hoagie Carmichael, Johnny Mercer, Gershwin… for some reason these songs are considered classic and standards. They stand the test of time and I wanted to pay homage to that. I love that era, and I love the full orchestra sound, as many people do. There’s a need right now for a harkening back to a more innocent time, and this music takes me there. It seems interesting to me that I started really listening to this music at such a young age. I felt like, “Why do I understand the lyrics to these sophisticated, complicated songs?” Then I remembered Linda Ronstadt released an album with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra [1983’s “What’s New”]. It was incredible, just incredible. I’ve been listening to that music my entire life.
So for me, it felt correct and right to go and revisit. Of course, people who know and love the music, I hope, will love the homage I’ve paid here, but I also want my younger fans to hear this music for the first time.
Why such a short run for “My love Letter to Broadway” this November? It must be the hottest ticket in town.
My schedule. I’ll be leaving Broadway directly to rehearse and film Hairspray Live for NBC.
Are you nervous over what could happen during a live broadcast?
I choose to look at it as what could go right. It’s the perfect piece at the perfect time. I think everyone is great for their parts… Exciting!
After such a busy 2016, what can you possibly have planned for 2017?
[Laughs.] A vacation. I just did a concert in Sun Valley [Idaho] with an orchestra, and I have to tell you, I didn’t know how beautiful Idaho was. There are so many parts of this country that are stunning. And part of me wants to go away just for a retreat – rest and sun. Maybe I’ll go skiing, but knowing my track record, I’ll probably break a leg. But I will tell you that a big break is heading my way in January. ‘Cause if I don’t get one, I can’t refuel, right? I can totally see me taking a big ol’ chill pill.
Finally, will we ever see you in Vegas?
I like to shop there. Maybe we’ll cross paths at the Bellagio.
Metropolis Nights best of the best pick is:
What can’t she do? Seriously?
Interview by Chaunce Hayden