BWW Review: KRISTIN CHENOWETH TAKES BOSTON BY STORM
In Concert Kristin Chenoweth
Friday, June 8, 2012, at Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA
Kristin Chenoweth took the Boston Opera House by storm on Friday night as one of only nineteen stops on her first national tour. The diminutive star of stage, screen, and soundtrack created a musical tempest more powerful than the wind and rain-driven thunder squall that blew through the theater district just hours before she strode onto the stage. For more than two hours, she had the audience wrapped around her little finger, taking advantage of her popularity to present an eclectic program of songs that she wanted to sing because of their special meaning to her.
Putting her vocal versatility on display, Chenoweth’s selections included show tunes, favorites from the American songbook, a number she performed on Glee, and several cuts from her new cd Some Lessons Learned. Music Director Mary Mitchell Campbell at the piano fronted an 11-piece orchestra that opened the show with an overture while a montage of photos depicting highlights of Chenoweth’s career appeared on an overhead screen. She was also joined by Tyler Hanes, Chelsea Packard, and Will Taylor, a trio of triple-threat Broadway-tested performers whose singing, dancing, and comedic talents shone brightly in support of the star.
Under the direction of stage veteran Richard Jay-Alexander, Chenoweth’s concert is a tight, well-paced production that flows smoothly from comedy to drama and back again. There are heartfelt tributes to her father (“Fathers and Daughters”), the great composer/lyricist team of Kander and Ebb (who cast her in Steel Pier, her Broadway debut), and an unapologetic (while not didactic) recognition of her Christian faith. The powerful paean “Upon This Rock” earned one of several standing ovations and made the Opera House feel like a revival meeting.
Along the way, she peppered her banter with words of wisdom and encouragement for young actors in the audience. Mentioning some of her favorite composers – among them Andrew Lloyd Webber and Leonard Bernstein - she suggested that they go home and look up Jerome Kern after her gorgeous rendition of “All the Things You Are.” While she was growing up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Chenoweth had to rely on cast recordings of Broadway musicals to discover a voice like her own in Sarah Brightman in The Phantom of the Opera, and demonstrated her classically-trained soprano with a cover of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.”
Perhaps best known for originating the role of Glinda in the Broadway musical Wicked, Chenoweth is idolized by little girls aspiring to follow in her footsteps. Many of them were in the audience clamoring to be chosen to join her for an impromptu duet on “For Good,” singing the Elphaba part to the star’s Glinda. After a cursory screening of four candidates, Chenoweth gave the nod to 16-year old Karen whose reply to the key question, “Do you really know the song?” was an emphatic, “Are you kidding?!” The 5’8” teen towered over her 4’11” idol, but clutched her arm for moral support. True to her word, the kid knew the song, harmony included, and sang her heart out, gesturing with special emphasis on the line, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.” It was a huge thrill for Karen, and Kristin told the audience, “I love this moment; it always gets me,” as she wiped tears from her eyes.
Other high points of the evening were a bit featuring Chenoweth conversing with the Bad Idea Bears and Lucy The Slut puppets (manipulated by Hanes, Taylor, and Packard respectively) from Avenue Q, the 2004 Best Musical Tony Award-winner that beat out Wicked; a Latin-infused “In These Shoes;” and an energetic duet with Packard on “Enough is Enough,” complete with mirrored disco ball casting reflections around the stage. Chenoweth offered four or five tunes from the country-flavored Some Lessons Learned, among them the Diane Warren-penned “What if We Never…” that featured Taylor in call and response, “What Would Dolly (Parton) Do?” which Kristin co-wrote, and her defining finale “I Was Here” while slides of the 43-year old actress’s charitable works were shown on the overhead screen.
Thanks to the contributions of everyone involved who is not named Kristin, In Concert Kristin Chenoweth is so much more than what its title implies. The combination of Packard’s sauciness, Taylor’s sweetness, and Hanes’ sexiness adds to its variety show appeal, while the star is secure enough to share the spotlight with her multi-talented ensemble, not to mention a star struck teen. Her vocal abilities and musical theater credits aside, this is an opportunity to see Kristin Chenoweth for who she is when she’s not playing a role. We already know the exceptional voice and the broad acting range on the stage. Now we know that Oklahoma-bred Kristi Dawn stands tall in life.