Kristin Chenoweth, Live At The Met: Silly And Sublime

By: Jan. 22, 2007

A most untraditional sound came out of the speakers of The Metropolitan Opera Friday night.  Just as music director/conductor Andrew Lippa lifted his arms to cue the 11-piece orchestra to begin the evening's program he was interrupted by the rhythmic chords of an organ playing the type of energizing vamp more typical for a ballpark than an opera house.  After a hearty "da-da-da-dat-da-da… charge!" the evening's soloist dashed out wearing a New York Mets jersey and cap, gleefully waving a pennant and asking if anyone knows where the hot dog stand is.  After being tactfully corrected by Lippa ("It's not the Mets.  It's The Met.), Kristin Chenoweth slipped backstage and, at the climax of a lively Lippa-composed overture, was revealed as the golden curtains parted looking, well, "gorgeous" in a red sparkly mini-dress as she regaled the crowd with the Bock and Harnick showstopper of the same name. 


This sense of flippant musical comedy silliness, combined with a legit soprano of crystalline clarity, provided a keen balance of artistry and entertainment in her eclectic program, which was directed by Kathleen Marshall.  Although she certainly has her adult admirers, Kristin Chenoweth presents herself in patter, song selection and performing style as a sort of "really cool older sister" to her large fan base of teenage girls, which made up a noticeable portion of Friday night's audience.  Without lecturing, she talks of the importance of family (a sweet offering of Jodi Marr's "Boy" was dedicated to her father) and good teachers.  Playing teacher herself, she divides the program into "Things You Want", where she sings her old favorites, and "Things You Need", where she delves into the classical repertory and the work of modern composers and lyricists who are carrying on that tradition.  She's friendly, self-effacing and naturally chatty with the crowd, and though Jess Goldstein's attractive outfits accentuate her beauty pageant figure, she's never overtly sexual in performance.  (Although I'm sure I wasn't the only one wondering exactly how much double-sided sticky tape was needed to hold her low-cut gown in place as she merrily hopped up and down while singing "Glitter And Be Gay".)


She introduced her Wicked signature tune, "Popular", as opera star Renee Fleming's advice to her on how to play the 3,800 seat auditorium, hitting a few mock-diva notes along the way.  "Taylor, The Latte Boy", a song she'll probably still be singing when she's 80, was done with her typical sympathetic geekiness and "The Girl In 14G", a one-woman trio where an apartment-dweller discovers she's rented a place just above an opera singer and just below a jazz scatter, was a wildly funny vocal highlight. 


To help relive her high school days in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, David Elder and Sean Martin Hingston joined in as a pair of dancing cowboys for "Goin' To The Dance With You."  Hingston returned as her good-for-nothing boyfriend in a hilariously staged presentation of "If", where his freshly murdered limp body was flopped about as she vented her lyrical rage.  The two fellas competed for her attention in Irving Berlin's "You're Easy To Dance With" in a clever arrangement that nearly transpired into a rumble of West Side Story proportions. 


The Julliard Choral Union joined in for Act II's opening piece, Naughty Marietta's "Italian Street Song", a demanding selection that prompted her to inquire, "Has anyone seen my larynx?"  In tribute to her college voice teacher (She's the one who taught me to sing from my mmm-mmm.  I haven't even seen it!  I don't want to sing from it."), she took on a recital stance beside the piano, with Lippa as sole accompanist, and gave lovely vocal purity to a Gilbert and Sullivan medley.  The mutual sensitivity and emotional teamwork between vocalist and pianist was very pleasing. 


Lippa's own "Love Somebody Now" opened a trio by contemporary composer/lyricists that included Adam Guettel's "How Can I Lose You?" and Ricky Ian Gordon's "Run Away", perhaps her most complete and in-depth lyric interpretation of the night.  It was followed by Stephen Foster's "Hard Times", which was introduced as a prayer for us all. 


"I was trying to figure out how to end the program and I thought some German lieder would be nice."  Instead she opted for Dennis DeYoung's (of Styx) "Show Me The Way" where she hit such a vocal zenith that perhaps there wasn't quite enough left for the challenging first encore, "Glitter And Be Gay."  Turning a glitch into a highlight (earlier in the evening she got a huge laugh when, while attempting to sing Comden and Green's tongue-twisting "If" lyric at warp speed, she lost her place and just started blurting out nonsense syllables while remaining in character) she sat herself at the piano when called out again, plunked out the note she didn't quite land and hit it perfectly three times in succession, to the audience's delight. 


The evening ended with a song she's gorgeously embracing eight times a week at Studio 54, The Apple Tree's "What Makes Me Love Him?", this time dedicated to her music director.  Sitting beside Lippa, the finishing moment was sweet, funny and perfectly sublime. 


Photos of Kristin Chenoweth and David Elder by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Act I (Things You Want)

Music by Andrew Lippa 

Music by Jerry Bock, Lyric by Sheldon Harnick 

Music and Lyric by Stephen Schwartz 

Goin' To The Dance Tonight
Music and Lyric by Richard Dworsky 

Music and Lyric by Jodi Marr 

Music by Jule Styne, Lyric by Betty Comden and Adolph Green 

Taylor, The Latte Boy
Music by Zina Goldrich, Lyric by Marcy Heisler 

You're Easy To Dance With
Music and Lyric by Irving Berlin 

The Girl In 14G
Music by Jeanine Tesori, Lyric by Dick Scanlon 

Act II  (Things You Need) 

Italian Street Song
Music by Victor Herbert, Lyric by Rida Johnson Young 

Gilbert and Sullivan Medley
The Sun Whose Rays Are All Ablaze 

Ah, Leave Me Not To Pine
Poor Wandering One 

Music by Arthur Sullivan, Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert 

Love Somebody Now
Music and Lyric by Andrew Lippa 

How Can I Lose You?
Music and Lyric by Adam Guettel 

Run Away
Music and Lyric by Ricky Ian Gordon 

Hard Times
Music and Lyric by Stephen Foster 

Show Me The Way
Music and Lyric by Dennis DeYoung 

First Encore 

Glitter And Be Gay
Music by Leonard Bernstein, Lyric by Richard Wilbur 

Second Encore 

What Makes Me Love Him?

Music by Jerry Bock, Lyric by Sheldon Harnick



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