Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Kristin Chenoweth Wows 'em
Also see Richard's review of South Pacific
Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth, fresh from her role as Glinda the good witch in Wicked, gave the nearly full auditorium their money's worth in a one-night only concert on June 30 at the Osher Marin JCC. Before the night was over, Kristin had won the hearts of the whole audience.
My first experience of seeing this diva was when she appeared in Steel Pier; I could see she was going to be a big Broadway star. Seeing her in Charlie Brown and the film version of The Music Man confirmed my thoughts. Ms. Chenoweth certainly knows how to charm an audience with an open smile and appealing manner. You can see the love coming from her, and the audience gives it back to her before the night is over. Kristin is one of those Broadway divas who examines her material from every conceivable angle. She sings each song not only lyrically but dramatically. She has a remarkable range in that operatic voice of hers. It is amazing to hear such a voice coming out of this petite and pert person. Many of the songs she sang during the 60 minute program were from her album Let Yourself Go.
After a lengthy introduction, Kristin strutted out onto the stage, blonde hair flowing, dressed in a form-fitting short, red sequined dress that showed her beautiful legs. She gave her radiant warm smile to the audience and immediately went into a good opening number by Vincent Youmans and B.G. De Sylva called "Should I be Sweet?" from the 1933 musical, Take a Chance. What a great number for an opening act, showing off all of the registers of her voice.
The artist then talked about going to a high school dance with a guy named Bo. This led into the Richard Dworsky song, "Goin' to the Dance with You." She then changed into a wistful mood, singing and acting the Rodgers and Hart song, "I'll Tell the Man in the Street" from I Married an Angel.
Kristin then sang one of my most favorite songs from Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus, the seldom heard "I'm A Stranger Here Myself." I always thought that only Mary Martin could sing this song perfectly. However, Ms. Chenoweth almost, but not quite, reached the perfection of Mary Martin in the song. She then went into a medley of beautiful Jerome Kern songs. "Bill" and "Nobody Else But Me" from Show Boat were terrific with a certain jazziness in her voice. Then she really got into a terrific torch mood ala Helen Morgan when she belted out "Why Was I Born," from Sweet Adeline. She was in a great dramatic and heartfelt mood as she sang Ricky Ian Gordon and Langston Hughes' "Just an Ordinary Guy."
Turning to a comic mode, Kristin sang Jeanne Tesori and Dick Scanlon's "The Girl in 14G," in which she used her operatic voice to its fullest extent. She informed the audience that she had been set to star in Thoroughly Modern Millie and that this song was written for her for the production. However, there was a conflict and she could not do the title role. Another song that was written for her but never put into a musical was Andrew Lippa's "When I First Met Him." It was for Kristin when she was doing the early readings of The Wild Party. The song was dropped from the musical after she dropped out of the project. This was a great, sincere song by an earnest lady.
The singer's last song of the first act was "Taylor the Latte Boy," with music by Zina Goldrich and lyrics by Marcy Heisler. I have heard this song sung by several cabaret artists in the past; this was the best version I have heard. She dramatized the meeting of the boy from Starbucks and made the song very interesting.
After a ten minute break, Kristin returned with the M.C. to center stage for a ten minute question and answer period about Kristin's life, her early years on Broadway and the defunct television series called "Kristin." The M.C. then announced a surprise for the audience - Kristin would be singing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in a concert version of Leonard Bernstein's Candide in April of 2004. Kristin next brought out a jewel box and we knew what she was going to sing: "The Jewel Song" from the Candide. I have to say this was a different version of the song; it was part operatic and part jazz, almost as if a flapper were singing it in the '20s. It took a little time to get used to this version (or maybe I am too much of a Barbara Cook fan). The audience stood and cheered after she left the stage. She came back for an encore: "For Good" from Stephen Schwartz's Wicked. She explained this was part of a duet and, frankly, it really should have sung with anther person since it left something to be desired in this arrangement.
Special congratulations go to Steve Sanders who was Kristin's temporary pianist for the Monday night show. Steve is a local pianist, and he and Kristin had only one walk through on Monday afternoon before the show. You would never know it, since these two worked so well together. His playing was smooth and right on the mark.
Osher Marin JCC's Center Stage has a great list of artists coming in their 2003-2004 series. The series includes Karen Mason and Brent Barrett on November 21 and 23, Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley on Feb 7 and 8, 2004, Sharon McNight and Craig Carnelia on March 20 and 21 and Liz Callaway and Jason Graae on April 24 and 25.