BWW Reviews: Kristin Chenoweth Wows London in a One-Night-Only Concert
It had been three years in the making when Kristin Chenoweth took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday for her one night only concert. She was visibly moved and clearly thrilled to be there as she walked out to thunderous applause. Over the next two hours, she took the audience on a journey through different musical genres, including musical theatre, country, gospel and pop. Miss Chenoweth wowed the audience not only with her versatility and the effortlessness with which she moved through this eclectic program, but also with the raw emotion palpable in each song. "Every song in the program is chosen for a reason," she said at one point. "I don't just sing it for the heck of it." And she meant it: 'Fathers and Daughters', a song about her relationship with her father, brought her to the verge of tears, 'Maybe This Time' from Cabaret was vibrating with defiance and anger and the Sandy Patti anthem 'Upon This Rock' soared to the sky (or the ceiling of the stunning Albert Hall), equally carrying away those that share her Christian faith and those that don't. The sheer beauty of her voice and her ability to convey the emotional connection carried every note, every phrase and every lyric to the last row of the house.
It is, however, not only the variety in the song selection, but also the different ways these songs are presented, that were truly magnificent. Two highlights of the program were Stephen Foster's 'Hard Times', beautifully arranged as a big anthem, supported by by a 15-piece band and three background singers, and Dolly Parton's 'Little Sparrow', which was accompanied solely by piano and percussion, yet was just as powerful in its simplicity.
There were particular songs, of course, the audience desperately wanted to hear from Miss Chenoweth, and they were not disappointed. She performed a multi-lingual version of Wicked's 'Popular', inspired by the musical's many productions around the world, along with another song from Wicked - another highlight of the evening. The First Lady of Broadway was joined on stage by the First Lady of the West End, Miss Kerry Ellis, the first British actress to play the part of Elphaba in its London production. To hear these two astounding talents sing 'For Good' together was a rare treat, and a magical experience that moved the audience and the two performers alike. Two other renowned West End performers also appeared as special guests during the show. Alison Jiear and Miss Chenoweth brought the house down together with the disco anthem 'Enough is Enough', and Peter Lockyer joined her for the sentimental 'One less Bell to Answer/A House Is not a Home' by Burt Bacharach.
A vital element of every Kristin Chenoweth concert is that the audience will never see her just sing one song after another; the show was peppered with anecdotes, often times humorous stories from her past, offering glimpses into her life. She did not shy away from accounts that might be embarrassing, sharing how she mistook the head of the Royal Guard for a waiter when she was invited to sing for the Queen of England several years ago, or how she made the cast refer to her as Kristi Chen in order to stay in character when she was cast as Tuptim in a Kansas production of 'The King and I'. Being invited to see the real person and small town girl behind the megastar name made the audience fall in love with her even more.
The end of the show came all too soon. Looking around me, I noticed there wasn't a single person in the audience who was not blown away by what they had experienced throughout the night. Many a tear had been shed, either from being moved by the emotion of a song or from laughter. Miss Chenoweth has everything a world-class performer needs: the natural gift of a voice that can be everything from crystal clear to velvety soft to gritty and edgy; the education and training that has given her the ability to fully utilize her incredible range; and a genuine, down to earth personality that makes her all the more loveable and relatable.
After the final song the audience leapt to their feet. The thunderous applause that followed seemed to never end, and Miss Chenoweth fought back tears once again. I turned around to see what she saw: over 4000 people from the first row to the last tier, standing and applauding for her in this beautiful venue, something very moving even for me and surely a view to remember. After several minutes of continuous applause, she concluded the concert with her encore - a heart-filled performance of Dolly Parton's 'I Will Always Love You', as a dedication to her audience and her fans.
Even having several of her previous concerts, this was undoubtedly one of the best of her always magnificent shows. The audience couldn't have been happier or more appreciative of what they had been offered. Kristin - be sure to come back soon, because England has now seen just enough to know that they want, and need, more!
Photo Credit: Darren Bell