Kristin Chenoweth has a voice that can sing anything. Even though she is known as a soprno, she has a wonderful chest belt, and her lower register is warm and accessible, And of course, she is a great theater singer, who takes excellent care of the written lyric as she expresses the songs’ emotions. In her new album, ‘For The Girls,’ she pays tribute to some of her favorite songs from her favorite female singers. While this is not the most original idea in the world, it feels especially poignant to see this in these #metoo times. Girl Power for the win!
And She starts the album in a bittersweet way, paying tribute to Barbra Streisand via ‘The Way We Were.’ It’s a curious choice, as the choice is very Barbra. Chenoweth doesn’t really tinker much with it, singing it with a spare arrangement but full of varied emotions. It doesn’t sound karaoke at all – it evokes Streisand’s original, but you can tell this is Chenoweth singing from her heart, and it works. My other favorite track is ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,’ which she knows from Eva Cassidy. There’s tenderness and longing on this version, and it will break your heart. There are some star guest appearances here, and some are a little weird – the Peggy Lee ‘I’m a Woman’ track has Jennifer Hudson and Reba McIntyre in it, and it never truly jells. You can tell how she loves doing her duet in ‘I Will Always Love You,’ but it still sounds detached. I suspect that the tracks were recorded separately. Chenoweth’s versatile voice is the star here, and those accouterments just distract from that. I mean, if she was going to duet with Ariana Grande, I wished they had done an Ariana style song. Left to her own devices, Chenoweth is at her best. Check out her version of ‘Desperado,’ (From Linda Ronstadt/Eagles) and you can see the way she goes about a song. This is a woman who knows what she is singing about, so best leave her alone.
God knows I am not the biggest fan of ‘Wicked,’ but I really cannot escape it. I hear the songs everywhere, and I do have bragging rights of having seen it with the Original Cast – Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth. So why not, it’s Halloween and NBC has a special, /A Very Wicked Haloween’ which celebrates its 15th Anniversary. I mean, you cannot doubt its success, for sure. And it’s still going strong – with sold out audiences all over the world.
This special, though, is a real mixed bag. It’s a real definition of all over the map. Menzel and Chenoweth host it, and they both look good in their white and green outfits, and it is sure nice to see them together. Both their solos, ‘Popular,’ and ‘Defying Gravity,’ were show stoppers. But the rest of the numbers kind of made me cringe. I didn’t really get the Adam Lambert/Ledisi duet of ‘As Long As You’re Mine,’ and I think I am allergic to anything Pentatonix. The much-hyped Ariana Grande number was okay, I guess, but too much pop melisma for me – but then again that defines this musical. And for ‘For Good,’ which is my favorite song from the musical. it was a nice idea to bring in all the Elphabas and Galindas through the years, but the number was haphazardly presented, with no stage direction at all, and felt messy.
But I am just being a bitchy show queen. I am glad this special exists, and hope they do more of the same.
When I first saw the track listing for Kristin Chenoweth’s ‘The Art Of Elegance,” I thought to myself, “Meh.” I thought the whole idea a bit uninspired, the song selection very familiar. But of course, there was no way I wasn’t going to listen to this. At first listen, I thought it was quite good, if a bit too clean maybe? This music would be great for the ballroom scene of a romantic comedy, I snarkily said to myself. (Why couldn’t she do Gilbert & Sullivan tribute album instead?) But of course, as I listened to it more, I found myself finding new and great things with each spin, and now I am hooked. I can’t stop listening to this.
Maybe it’s the piano playing, by the great Alan Broadbent, or the top notch production by Steve Tyrell, but I keep on coming back to Kristin’s. She give these songs little nuances that make them sound very Kristin. There is much joy in the way she sings “Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart, ” for example, and a light sexiness in ‘Bewitched Bothered, and Bewildered.” In the latter song, she exudes a wholesome kind of sexiness. And of course, she can still bring the drama, like in ‘I’m A Fool To Want You.’ A little pause here, a sigh there, and you can feel the pain, the self-pity, the marvelous melancholy of it all. The simplicity of “Smile” made me cry. When I saw her sing this song live, the effect was more chamber-like, but with Broadbent on the piano, she is made to go though so many emotions here, like a mini area. And even though Chenoweth is a soprano, her middle range here is beautiful, and you never feel like she is slumming singing these songs. This is a beautiful, and yes, elegant recording. Dim the lights, have a glass of wine, and indulge.
Every once in a while, even a jaded theatergoer like me still gets shocked. yes, shocked from seeing something so good that my faith in theater is renewed. That’s how I felt seconds into seeing the new revival of “On The Twentieth Century.” now playing at The American Airlines Theater and produced by the Roundabout Theater Company. This is a show I have never seen, but whose original cast recording I have devoured when I was still “discovering” Broadway scores. So I have only imagined Madeline Kahn doing the role of Lily Garland. Now that I have seen Kristen Chinoweth in the same role, she will forever be etched in my memory. As if I had a doubt before, but here Chenoweth proves her mega watt star power. And in playing role, her small frame gives a larger than life performance, and it is one of those performances that only comes once in a blue moon, and years from now, we will all be bragging about the time we saw her do this role. Yes, it is that great, and on Tony night, the theater community will not be able to resist givign her another Antoinette Perry. She does everything here, and she does all of them big: she sings every note in the scale, she dances every step in the book, she chews every imaginable scenery – and she does them all with sheer delight. And she is supported by such a charming cast, starting with Peter Gallagher as her producer ex-boyfriend who is trying to woo her for a new production that will save his recent flops. And Andy Karl, as her boy toy, displays comedic timing I never thought he possessed – and he was already sublime in last season’s “Rocky.” The score takes time to love, although once you do, it’s irresistible. There are a lot of things happening on stage, and for the most part they all hit the right mark. But again, again, and again, it’s Kristin – she carries this whole show, and lets it soar. On my death bed, this will be one of the highlights of my theater-going experience.