Review Roundup: Kristin Chenoweth Returns to Broadway in FOR THE GIRLS
Kristin Chenoweth returns to the Broadway stage in a live concert celebrating the release of her new album FOR THE GIRLS (Concord Records, produced by Steve Tyrell), with Music Direction by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Directed by Richard Jay-Alexander and Presented by James L. Nederlander. The limited engagement continues through November 17, 2019.
Kristin Chenoweth will bring her powerhouse voice and her emotionally charged interpretations as she performs a series of classic hits from her new album, FOR THE GIRLS. She will wow the audience with songs such as "The Way We Were," "When I Fall in Love," and "The Man That Got Away" from the beloved artists Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton and Judy Garland. This must-see performance acts as her personal tribute to music's most passionate women, who have influenced her into becoming the accomplished Broadway star she is today.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Ben Brantley, New York Times: The beginning of "For the Girls," directed by the record and concert producer (and celebrated diva handler) Richard Jay Alexander, found Chenoweth alone onstage, back to the audience in an oversized T-shirt, with a 7-11 Big Gulp soda on the grand piano. She turned around and feigned exaggerated embarrassment, as if we had caught her unaware in her scanties. While it's easy to make fun of stars playing gracious host to us little people out there in the dark, an aura of easygoing generosity and gratitude pervaded both works. Chenoweth repeatedly brought her two, highly individual backup vocalists, Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen, into the spotlight for solos, and asked them about their starts in showbiz.
Jessica Derschowitz, Entertainment Weekly: The two-hour show (with one intermission) flies by fast, and with a set-list spanning so many different genres, there's something for everyone to enjoy. That's fitting for a concert where the star makes a point to include and celebrate so many others. And it makes it even more fitting that in that same spirit, during the second and finale encore, she let the audience sing the final note.
Thom Gieier, The Wrap: Chenoweth's voice remains a powerful instrument, rich in tone even in the upper registers. And her melisma carries a hint of twang that belies her Oklahoma Bible Belt upbringing. But there's a sameyness to the material, with lots of torch songs, that's broken up only by the frankly mixed bag of musical guests and novelty numbers. Chenoweth and Barton each do a hilarious faux operatic song that shows off both their training and their pipes, but the supposedly comedic number about text speak is awful AF, the musical equivalent of an out-of-touch suburban mom joke, and there are other throwaway moments as well. The evening's highlight is the encore - both of them - which includes a literal drop-the-mic moment where she belts out "Smile" center stage, without amplification. It's a throwback to classic Broadway, before performers were wired up with mics that look like moles on their foreheads or orthdontic headgear, and it delivers the kind of goosebumps thrill that is all too rare on the Great White Way of the 21st century.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, New York Stage Review: Ostensibly, For the Girls is a showcase for Chenoweth's new album of the same title, and you'll hear plenty of those songs: Lesley Gore's girl-power anthem "You Don't Own Me"; "Desperado," the Eagles song immortalized by Linda Ronstadt; "The Man That Got Away," from the Judy Garland version of A Star Is Born (Chenoweth pairs it with "Over the Rainbow" and sings both wearing a pair of sky-high red sequined shoes); the Alan Bergman-Marilyn Bergman-Marvin Hamlisch Oscar winner "The Way We Were," backed only by Campbell's wistful piano accompaniment; and "I Will Always Love You," an ode to the woman Chenoweth calls "my queen," Dolly Parton. You might have to wait for the encore for that beauty.
Elizabeth Foster, New York Theatre Guide: She closes with "I Will Always Love You" and midway sings without a microphone. Her tribute to Dolly. She is choked during several songs and at one point almost didn't finish. House lights come up and as people exit, Chenoweth re-emerges stage right with Campbell to sing her encore, Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." A delightful surprise - but then this is Broadway after all, and live performances are always magic in the making and can never be repeated. Each of her performances promises a new line up. The overall feeling is bittersweet and emotional for Chenoweth. Perhaps over the short run we learn more about her motivation and devotion.
David Cote, Theater News Online: "The ageless, plucky pixie with the huge voice and the dainty frame. Her coloratura trills and helium squeak transcend period and plug her into a beloved line of comedy dames, from Fanny Brice to Annaleigh Ashford."
Rob LeDonne, Billboard: Leaning into tender moments like that, Chenoweth built toward the evening's finale, Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," a song which Chenoweth told Billboard she included on the For the Girls album in an effort to "give the song back" to Parton in the wake of Whitney Houston's perhaps better-known version. As the song, and show, came to a close, Chenoweth sang the final verse off mic, proving her voice is a monumentally powerful instrument on its own, no extra amplification necessary.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos