Even with a Tony, a Drama Desk and an Emmy on her mantle, plus a handful of nominations for the most prestigious and significant awards in theater and television, singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth still maintains a professional wish list.
Topping the list: An appearance on Saturday Night Live. “But I probably won’t get that,” she confesses in a telephone interview. “I don’t think they’re fans over there. But that would’ve been nice. I love SNL; it feels so right for me. But oh well, next.”
As a singer, the 4-foot-11 Oklahoma blonde with the chirpy speaking voice and the indefatigable personality is a powerhouse; indeed, she has a Master’s in Opera Performance, but after college she chose to pursue her other great love, musical theater. “I still sing arias,” Chenoweth says. “I still sing at opera houses. I don’t think anyone should limit themselves. It makes me sad when I hear they do that, because they shouldn’t.”
She took the Tony in 1999 for her performance as Sally in a revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and was nominated again, in 2004, for Wicked. Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda, the Good Witch in the blockbuster Stephen Schwartz musical.
Chenoweth will perform in concert, just her and a pianist, Friday at Ruth Eckerd Hall.
The wide-ranging program will include Broadway favorites, pop classics and American Songbook standards from her 2016 album The Art of Elegance.
She’ll also debut material from For the Girls, which she’s readying for release in the fall.
That collection, explains Chenoweth, is “for my younger fans, but really, all women.”
It’s music first done by “singer/songwriters who have blessed me and helped me become the musician I am – like Carole King, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, Dinah Washington, Reba McEntire. They’ll all be represented on there, and I have some special guests that are on the album as well, that I can’t say yet.”
Chenoweth’s Tony Award was for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, in Pushing Daisies. She was Emmy-nominated twice for Glee. She still looks back fondly at her 2005-2006 stint on The West Wing, during which she played Annabeth Schott, deputy press secretary and assistant to John Spencer’s character Leo McGarry.
Spencer, who died while The West Wing was still in production, had come from a stage background, as had his longtime co-star Alison Janney. Although other lead actors on the show were already politically well-informed, the two of them knew virtually nothing about politics; when Chenoweth joined the cast, she completed the circle of disinterest. Instead of world affairs, they chatted about shows they loved.
“I think that’s why we bonded immediately, because we were all three theater knuckleheads,” she says. “That was our training; there was just no doubt about it.
“I do think that kind of training is what helped us on the show. It’s like, you better know your stuff. We learned a lot while we were doing the show – but make no mistake, we belonged on it. Because you gotta get on the train, with that station, or you’re gonna be left.”
Like her fellow Oklahoman Reba McEntire, Chenoweth is heavily involved in philanthropy. A theater in her hometown of Broken Arrow bears her name. “I want kids in the town where I grew up to come and watch Wicked and Jersey Boys, and Tommy Tune and Caralee Carmello and the Four Tenors,” she explains.
“And I have a camp there, too, the week of the Tonys, that I’ll be doing in the middle of a Netflix movie. I took a week off from this movie I’m doing to go and teach acting, singing, dancing to 40 kids who’ve auditioned. And then at the end we put on a big show.
“It’ll be our fifth year; it’s growing a lot, and one of these kids one day is going to be getting their own Tony Award, their own Oscar, their own Emmy. That’s what I want to live to see.”
Tickets and info here.