It’s past 5 o’clock in the evening when Kristin Chenoweth placed an order for a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, cheese and a side of potato chips for dinner. She just finished a 20-minute private concert in front of about two dozen members of the press followed by an hour of interviews promoting a seemingly endless number of exciting projects ahead for the singer and actress.
Broadway is what’s immediately next. The 51-year-old Emmy and Tony Award winner had considered a Los Angeles concert, but the bright stage lights keep calling. “It’s me. I can’t be playing blah, blah, blah. It has to be Broadway.”
Chenoweth and her director, Richard Jay-Alexander, who’s worked with icons including Barbra Streisand, have a bunch of surprises up their sleeves for each night of her eight-performance run of “For the Girls” at the Nederlander Theatre in New York, November 8-17. The Broadway show is a celebration of her latest album of the same name that was released in September. It’s a tribute to some of her favorite female singers.
“The opening is outrageous,” Alexander teased in an interview. “I am not giving anything away. I don’t want people to think they are coming to a concert. You have to put Kristin Chenoweth on stage. She is a big Broadway star so you have to deliver that.”
Each performance will feature a different celebrity or featured singer who will be a surprise to the audience.
Sirius XM host Julie James will perform a Sandy Patty song with Chenoweth on Saturday, Nov. 9. It marks James’ Broadway debut. Chenoweth sprang the offer on her in the middle of a live-to-tape interview together back in September, the same day her return to Broadway was announced. “When they say dreams come true, that is the epitomes of a dream come true,” James exclaimed to CBS News. “It’s a real testament to Kristin because she is the kind, giving, very generous performer who really cares about the people who are interviewing her — spending time with her.”
Chenoweth is also inviting a “gaggle” of (past or present) Glindas and a few Elphabas fromon stage to give them a “master’s class” on the now very popular roles. “It’s going to be pretty hilarious,” she giggled.
It was 16 years ago this week whenopened on Broadway, with Chenoweth playing Glinda opposite Idina Menzel as Elphaba. The story, based on the book by Gregory Maguire, is a precursor to “The Wizard of Oz.” The show, which became an international juggernaut, celebrated another major milestone this week: It’s now the fifth longest-running Broadway show in history, surpassing “Les Miserables” with 6,681 performances.
“I always wanted to be in a show someone would have heard of,” Chenoweth remarked of the honor. The Oklahoma native made her Broadway debut in 1997’s “Steel Pier,” which quickly closed, followed by a short run of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999. She won a Tony Award in for her role in that show as Sally Brown but it closed the next day. Her own 2001 TV show, “Kristin,” was short-lived. Another TV series, “Pushing Daisies,” lasted two seasons and won her an Emmy Award. More recently she starred in the TV comedy “Trial and Error.”
As for “Wicked’s” phenomenal success: “That was my prayer. I got my wish. I am very proud I was involved in this,” she beamed.
Over the years Chenoweth’s had other big shows like “Promises, Promises!” with Sean Hayes, “On The Twentieth Century” with Peter Gallagher, and lots of television roles including on “Glee,” “Younger” and “Hairspray Live” with Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande.
Both of those singers are featured on her new album “For the Girls.” So are Reba McEntire and, someone Chenoweth’s worshipped for years. At first, Chenoweth wanted Parton to sing “Here You Come Again,” but Parton had another idea in mind — which Chenoweth says she “passed out” from.
“Her manager called me back and said, ‘Dolly wants to do a song she wrote: “I Will Always Love You”.'” The song was written by Parton but was famously covered by Whitney Houston in “The Bodyguard.” But when Chenoweth got Parton’s vocals back (all the artists recorded from various cities), she was surprised. Parton chose different harmony parts from what Chenoweth was used to hearing.
“It taught me a lesson,” Chenoweth said. “Even me, when I do [‘Wicked’s’] ‘For Good,’ I have to sing Glinda’s part and I have to stand on stage right. I’m very improv-y and fun but when I’ve been doing something for a long time, it’s kind of hard to switch. Not with Dolly. And it taught me, ‘You need to remember that — that you have to, too.'”
The album was put together while Chenoweth was working on a holiday Hallmark movie, “A Christmas Love Story,” with Scott Wolf, which premieres December 7. It’s a story Chenoweth pitched herself about something the network hasn’t tackled before. “I can’t wait for people to see it because of this subject, which I can’t give away,” she teased. She even co-wrote a song (her first) for the movie with Chely Wright.
On November 14, Chenoweth debuts a single, “White Christmas,” which will be available in all digital music stores. Then once the holiday songs are put to bed, she plans to spend January and February of 2020 in a room writing her own biographical musical. Chenoweth, who was adopted, says there is a lot people don’t know about her life. We do know that she grew up idolizing actress Madeline Kahn and that every summer Chenoweth hosts a Broadway Boot Camp in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, for aspiring thespians. “Pushing Daisies” writer Bryan Fuller and composer Andrew Lippa (who wrote her Tony awarding winning song, “My New Philosophy”) have offered to help her put the musical together.
There are two other musicals she’s working on as well. One is about televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, and the other involves playing the Meryl Streep role of Madeline in a musical version of the 1992 movie “Death Becomes Her.” The timelines for these aren’t clear, but she says when they happen, they happen. “Luckily I won’t time out of them. In other words, I can play them for a while with my age and everything,” she smirked.
Why always the stage?
“I love being in front of camera. It’s fun. But I’m a creature of live performance. I understand that no show is the same because no audience is the same when I’m performing live. That’s just who I am. I need the audience.”
She added, “I’m a creature of the theater.”