BWW Review: KRISTIN CHENOWETH at Strathmore
Sometimes a singer just needs a microphone and a killer accompanist to create a fine evening of music. Of course, it helps if the singer's material is good as well. Tony and Emmy Award-winning singer/actress Kristin Chenoweth combined these few simple ingredients, walked out onto the stage of The Music Center at Strathmore, and treated her audience to an audible feast.
As soon as Chenoweth's pianist/musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell (MMC) played the first chords of "Should I Be Sweet" and Chenoweth opened her mouth and we could hear her coloratura-trained voice, I knew we were in for a great ride.
Of course, the evening included material that everyone expects in a Kristin Chenoweth concert - for example, "Popular" from Wicked and "I Could Have Danced all Night" from My Fair Lady - but she also added a sizeable chunk of new songs to her repertoire. For those of us that have seen Chenoweth in concert multiple times over the years, it was great to hear some new material mixed with her tried and true songs.
The whole concert featured highlight after highlight, but I would like to feature a few of my favorites from the evening.
At the top of the list would have to be a pairing of Willie Nelson's "Always on my Mind" and Stephen Sondheim's "Losing my Mind". As Chenoweth said, "It is amazing the thoughts that pop into my head at 3:30 AM". Thank God MMC keeps strange hours too because the pairing is her brilliant arrangement.
Another standout would have to be a song originally written by Jason Robert Brown as an auction prize called "Fifty Years Long". The song is dedicated to Chenoweth's parents.
As you might know Mary- Mitchell Campbell isn't only a killer musician/conductor/musical supervisor...you get the idea, but she is also a dynamite composer. This was illustrated by a song MMC wrote for her ASTEP organization called "Reasons for Hope". The song featured Chenoweth and students from the Strathmore-based student performing ensemble Young Artists of America. It was totally moving and stopped the show. GO MMC!!!
MMC's vocal stylings with Chenoweth on the patter song "I Am Not a Diva" showed the true chemistry these two have when they step onto a stage together.
The students also backed Chenoweth on Sandi Patti's inspirational classic "Upon This Rock".
Most singers don't ever step onstage without a microphone nowadays, but Chenoweth took a cue from our dearly departed Barbara Cook and ended her concert with an unplugged rendition of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile". The Music Center at Strathmore has fabulous acoustics and Chenoweth filled that hall with the purest of sound. That's what I call a finish.
Chenoweth's Oklahoma roots were illustrated in full force with the country classic "Desperado". It was easily the best version of the song I've ever heard.
As this was a piano and voice concert there were not a lot of flashy lighting cues, but the subtleties within Matt Berman's lighting for each song demonstrates yet again why this gentleman has been at the top of his game for many years now.
Kristin Chenoweth, backed by Mary-Mitchell Campbell, proved that less is definitely more. Anytime a performer is seen in his/her purest form, the true talent comes forth for all to see. And that's "My New Philosophy".
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
Kristin Chenoweth played a one-night-only engagement at The Music Center at Strathmore on April 8, 2019. For upcoming Kristin Chenoweth tour dates, click here. For upcoming events at Strathmore, click here.