BWW Reviews: Kristin Chenoweth Dazzles in First Solo Concert at Hollywood Bowl
As if there was ever even an inkling of doubt, Broadway, Film and TV phenomenon Kristin Chenoweth's first solo concerts on August 23 and 24, 2013 at the 17,000-seat Hollywood Bowl was, as expected, nothing short of spectacular. Delivering a highly-entertaining, must-see event filled with plenty of laughs, many touching moments, and lots of opportunities to showcase her unique talents, the pixie-sized Emmy and Tony Award-winning musical superstar did not disappoint in her two-night engagement backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The evening began with a mini-burst of fireworks that took everyone by surprise.
"I like starting things off with a bang," she joked, after making her long way to stage center glistening in the first of two gorgeous sparkling-white frocks designed by Mark Zunino she wore especially for the occasion.
"I can't believe I'm at the Hollywood Bowl by myself!" she gushed like a giddy school girl.
Frankly, so did we.
To punctuate the environment of her solo debut at the world-famous L.A. venue, Chenoweth---along with director Richard Jay-Alexander and longtime creative partner Mary-Mitchell Campbell---concocted a two-act song-and-snark show specifically tailored for the Hollywood Bowl, with Kevin Stites on hand to conduct the L.A. Philharmonic. The cleverly-curated concert allowed her to pay tribute to some of her favorite Hollywood movie musicals in the first half, followed by a quirky "Pure Chenoweth" second half that included songs that she has sung in past stage productions.
Of course, the second act also included her now infamous practice of picking one very lucky, randomly-selected audience member to sing a duet with her on "For Good," the well-known ballad from the smash hit musical WICKED in which she famously originated the role of Glinda the Good Witch (this section, along with other material such as the "spontaneous" video phone call to Dolly Parton during "What Would Dolly Do?" were also featured in her recent mini-tour that made its sole Southern California stop at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Orange County last November).
Spunky, adorable, and incredibly theatrical, Chenoweth---armed with a beaming smile and that unmistakable, stratospheric voice---charmed and mesmerized her captivated audience with some witty barbs and sassy one-liners, while simultaneously wowing them with terrific renditions of classic songs like "Moon River," "I Could Have Danced All Night," and "Over The Rainbow." Sporadically, she even cops a funny, exaggerated "diva attitude" with conductor Stites and her trio of awesome NYC back-up singers (Johnny Stellard, Constantine Germanacos, and Jennifer Diamond) while quickly dispelling any notion that she is anything but a gentle soul with a penchant for self-effacing humor. (A sampling of her cute-sy snark: while bantering with a gentleman in the audience who doesn't seem to be acceptably enthusiastic about the show, she asked point-blank, "Hey, sir, do you work for ABC? Because they keep canceling my shows!")
In between jokes about her height, sips from her jumbo-sized Big Gulp/In-and-Out cups (the latter a nod to the infamous So Cal burger chain), and humorous anecdotes about her early years, the accomplished soprano sang a nice mixture of uptempo brassy tunes and emotionally-charged torch songs that pulled at the heart-strings. My jaw literally dropped in awe listening (and, yes, watching) her deeply defiant performance of "The Man That Got Away" that would have made Judy Garland proud. I even found myself a bit misty-eyed during her touching renditions of a pair of Disney gems: The Sherman Brothers' "Feed the Birds" from Mary Poppins, which also happened to be Walt Disney's favorite song, and Randy Newman's "When She Loved Me" the tear-jerker from Pixar's Toy Story 2.