Regional Reviews: Seattle
Kristin Chenoweth Wows at Seattle's Paramount Theatre as Tour Launches
Also see David's review of The Producers
Directed with loving care by Richard-Jay Alexander, with sublime musical direction by Chenoweth's longtime collaborator Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the show seemed almost like a return to the great TV variety shows of yore, with Kristen displaying enormous versatility, as her diverse song-list demanded. Nods to her own considerable career included a "farewell" performance of her trademark number "Taylor the Latte Boy" (sheet music placed in a tiny coffin and given to a fan), and a hilarious rendition of her Wicked signature song "Popular" in an around the world with Glinda version, allowing her to channel several different languages. She also acknowledged Stephen Schwartz's Broadway blockbuster by inviting two star-struck young misses onstage to duet the heartfelt anthem "For Good" with her, a touching highlight of the show. The star and her able supporting trio of singer/dancers Tyler Hanes, Chelsea Packard and Will Taylor also comedically acknowledged Avenue Q the little musical that could and did triumph over Wicked for the best musical Tony, as Kristin bantered with Q's Bad Idea Bears and Lucy T. Slut Puppets.
One of the loveliest moments in the line-up was Chenoweth's moving "Fathers and Daughters" dedicated to the the beloved Dad who adopted and raised her, and one of several tunes that moved me to tears. Kander & Ebb (whose Steel Pier was Kristin's first Broadway break) were duly recognized with the inclusion of a lovely, plaintive "My Coloring Book" and a balls to the wall "Maybe This Time." For this audience member, her most powerful delivery was of an undeservedly obscure song by the legendary Stephen Foster, "Hard Times Come Again No More," which was utterly, chillingly moving. Chenoweth gave great glee to her fans from the TV series of that name with a medley of "One Less Bell To Answer/A House is Not A Home" which she had sung in her recurring role of April Rhodes.
Her rich and lovely soprano was in fine form on such numbers as "All the Things You Are" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again." A Dolly Parton tribute number, complete with a videotaped phone chat with Dolly (perhaps a nod to the rumor she will play Parton on Broadway) felt a bit strained, and though Chenoweth gamely paid tribute to one of her favorite stars, the late Madeline Kahn, with "I'm Tired" from Blazing Saddles, she is better drawing from her own considerable arsenal of songs than seeming a pale imitation of Kahn's brilliant riff on Marlene Dietrich.
Minor quibbles aside, Chenoweth gave one of the most tireless and towering concert performances I have ever seen, and her encores, both a hearty "I Will Always Love You" and the Chenoweth comedic and vocal tour-de-force "The Girl in 14G," solidified all that had come before.
She may be coming to a city near you, if you are lucky enough, so save those summer entertainment dollars; Chenoweth is worth the price of six movie admissions, believe me.
Kristin Chenoweth performed on May 9 at the Paramount Theatre. For more information on her tour, visit www.kristin-chenoweth.com/events.
- David Edward Hughes