She's here for two holiday concerts (Dec. 8 & 9), but we caught up with the sassy star to chat about this and that first!
Kristin Chenoweth is one of those rare talents whose career knows no boundaries. The Broken Arrow, Okla., native is a star of Broadway, TV, movies and music. She has a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role of Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. In the theater world, she’s best known for originating the role of Glinda in the smash musical Wicked. She also has an Emmy for her role in the ABC comedy/drama Pushing Daisies.
This month, Chenoweth celebrates her first performance with the Nashville Symphony — a concert of Christmas music with some Broadway numbers thrown in as well. She’s certainly no stranger to the stage, and she’s no stranger to Nashville either.
“I have always loved Nashville. I first fell in love with it back in 1988 when I was hired as a singer and dancer for Opryland in a show called Way Out West,” she reflects. “I remember telling my parents I was not going to go to college, I was just going to stay in Nashville. At the end of the summer, they came and picked me up and TOOK me to college. Pretty funny!” she adds.
“I remember that summer was the first time I met Reba [McEntire]. I was doing a gig at Opryland Hotel and she was there. I was not singing. I was hired to just walk around and give out candy. I was too shy to introduce myself, so I awkwardly said, ‘I’m a big fan,’ then I sort of crawled away,” Chenoweth remembers. “I never wanna bother people! That’s why I don’t have many autographs!”
The star made her way back to Music City in the summer of 2011 to record her country-pop album, Some Lessons Learned, with renowned music producer Bob Ezrin, whom she admits dragging around to lots of chain restaurants while she was in town.
“I’m pretty sure I made Bob go to ALL the chain restaurants with me, because they’re my favorite — don’t judge me, people!” Chenoweth laughs, recalling one of her favorite spots that’s a landmark with Nashvillians. “I loved San Antonio Taco Company, so I ate there almost daily. We don’t get good Tex-Mex in New York … finally, good queso! Anyway, I ate myself through the city,” she adds.
Another trip to Nashville after recording her album found Chenoweth gracing one of the most coveted stages in the country. “Not too many years ago, I got to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, and for me that was a bucket-lister,” Chenoweth says. “I love country music. I grew up on country music. And there I was, standing on THE stage. I really wanted to be a country singer my whole life, but God has other plans for me, not just one style, I guess. Still, I have reverence for that stage and will never forget it.”
Given her childhood desire to be a country singer, and given her immense talent in all entertainment areas, just how did the four-foot-eleven-inch-tall bundle of dynamite wind up falling into musical theater and making it to the Great White Way?
“I don’t want to say I ‘fell’ into musical theater, but I kind of did. I grew up singing country and gospel — love me my Sandi Patty and Amy Grant — but I started doing shows in high school and, of course, I was bit by the acting bug,” Chenoweth explains. “I view it all the same, though. A song, a character, a play, a movie or TV show … it’s all part of being a creative artist. That’s what I love, doing all types of work. To me, it ain’t work, though. It’s a blessing,” she adds.
Her Christmas show with the Nashville Symphony is sure to be a treat for the local audience, and Chenoweth says she can’t wait to get back here.
“I’m excited to come to Nashville for these Christmas concerts, because it’s my favorite holiday … I get to pick some of my favorites and sing with that symphony! … and I actually believe in what Christmas is about. I get to be a part of celebrating the birth of Jesus in a town I love,” Chenoweth says. “Anyone who knows me knows I’m accepting of ALL people, but it’s nice to get to come to a town not much different than how I grew up and sing about Jesus’ birth! I will sing a lot of our favorites like ‘What Child is This?’ and some not-so-well-known songs like ‘Come On Ring Those Bells.’ One of my personal holiday favorites is ‘A Christmas Waltz.’ The first time I heard that song it came out of Karen Carpenter. I loved her, too!” she adds.
Chenoweth won’t give all the secrets of her upcoming show away, but says she’ll be inviting choral singers and kids to join her on stage for one of her favorite Sandi Patty tunes, and speaking of kids, Chenoweth gets serious when she spots them in her audience.
“I love it when I look out into the audience and I see a little kid, or an older couple. It means I have people who seem to be responding to me at all ages. I smile special though when I see a little kid. I think, ‘I wonder if this is their first show? You better kick butt, Cheno!’” And speaking of first shows, Chenoweth continues, “I still remember mine. It was Amy Grant’s concert at the Lloyd Noble Center in Tulsa, Okla.,” she reflects. “I waited for her autograph, which made me nervous, because again, I didn’t wanna bother her! It was an anthology of all her music at the time. She wrote, ‘God bless you, Kristin. Love, Amy Grant.’ I was probably about 11 or 12 years old. I have it to this day,” she says.
Since Broadway’s a huge part of Chenoweth’s career, she promises numbers from Wicked and newer material, too, but she’s really most excited about sharing holiday tunes.
“It’s going to be a good time,” she says. “And hopefully people will leave that concert ready for Christmas and the holiday season, no matter what their beliefs are.”
IF YOU GO:
Broadway & Holiday with Kristin Chenoweth and the Nashville Sympony
Dec. 8 – 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Schermerhorn Symphony Center
1 Symphony Place, Nashville
615-687-6400 • nashvillesymphony.org
Tickets: $39 – $100