Spotlight on Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin

Chenoweth

by Nancy Rosati

(part two)

KC:  That's right. We met on a blind date.

NR:  Was that around the same time?

KC:  It was about nine months after that and I had just gotten out of a very, very serious long relationship from college. I wasn't really ready to meet anybody and my friend, Alan, kept saying, "You'd really like my roommate. You'd really like my roommate." Well, I was doing Little Me at the Birmingham Theatre at the time and he kept pressuring me about this guy. So, I said, "OK, I'll meet him when we get back into town." So, we got back into town, and we met ... and the rest is history.

NR:  Wow. That fast?

KC:  (big smile) That fast. Yeah, I always like to tease him. I tell him, "I think I fell in love before you did." (laughs) He came around real quick. He was just, you know, IT for me.

NR:  He told me that at that point he was doing well but you were still struggling to find a niche.

KC:  You know what it was? It's very true. I never really struggled per se as far as having to get other jobs. I've gotten jobs. I've gotten leads. I got leading roles at the Guthrie Theatre, at Goodspeed, Off Broadway. I did Fantasticks. I did the Roundabout. But, the Broadway show didn't happen until Steel Pier, which was about three or four years ago.

NR:  And that didn't last long.

KC:  Right. That didn't last long. We were just on different ... I was doing more Off Broadway work and regional work and he was doing Gaston. I wanted to be on Broadway so bad but it just ... I remember auditioning many times for this one specific Broadway show. I came very close to getting it and he was there to really help me through. Ultimately the person they picked was wonderful and she's actually a friend of mine. Everybody here is very talented and I've learned that a lot of times it's just going to be how they decide to go. I was lucky that finally Steel Pier was the original role. I originated something new. I tend to do more of that kind of work. Marc does a lot of things that we know. I don't. I do new things.

NR:  What he said to me is that you're unique ...

KC:  Awww.

NR:  But he's right. That's true. It's not just that he's prejudiced.

KC:  (laughs) He is prejudiced, but he told me that then. He said, "Look, when it happens, it's going to happen big for you because you're very special and unique." It was funny because even when I auditioned for things and didn't get a Broadway show, they always came back with amazing feedback. They would say, "It's going to happen for her." So, I just hung in there and he was a real big support, and continues to be, even when things are great.

Kristin as Sally Brown
as Sally Brown
NR:  That's terrific. So, tell me about Charlie Brown, when people finally discovered you existed. I think that's when you got on the "real map."

KC:  I think so. Certainly Steel Pier was the sort of breakout where they said, "Who's that?" and then Charlie Brown was when they said, "Oh, this is what she can do." I never anticipated a show like Charlie Brown, especially a role like Sally, to be as beloved as she became. I'm so happy though. A lot of people ask me if I'm worried that I'm associated with a cartoon. Not at all because I don't look at it as a cartoon. I look at her as a little girl that Charles Schulz and I helped bring to life. I've got to be honest with you, I never thought. I was actually supposed to do a role in Annie Get Your Gun. When this part came I thought, "Should I?" It's always more interesting to me to be in a more intimate cast. I prefer it, so I decided to do Charlie Brown against everybody's advice except Marc's and my agent's. I'm glad I did it.

NR:  Well, they wrote a song for you, and you won a Tony.

KC:  Please, I never anticipated that.

NR:  Tell me about that. What was that like?

KC:  You know, everybody kept asking me, "Are you reading the reviews?" when we were out of town. I would say, "No." They would say, "Well, they're really good." Then when we got back to New York, a friend of mine called me and said, "You have GOT to read Ben Brantley's review. I'm sorry, but you've got to read it." So, I broke down and read his review. I thought, "Well, that was so nice. I'm glad he got it," but then it seemed to escalate from there. It was tricky for me because it happened in such a big way all at once I guess. I had to really learn how to say "no" and prioritize my life because I'm the type of person that wants to do a lot of things, that wants to do a lot of benefits, that wants to do a lot of extra-curriculars, but it became so wearing on me that I was close to breaking down. Everybody wants a piece of you when it hits that way. Epic ProportionsBut, what actor wouldn't want to be in that position? I just thank God everyday for Charlie Brown because it's enabled me to do Epic Proportions (left), which is completely different, and Annie, which is even more different. The thing about me is I really don't have a niche. I'm a comedienne, but I get to play a wide variety. I think, for me, that's what Charlie Brown did.

NR:  It also gave you the national exposure, not to mention that frantic costume change on TV.

KC:  (laughing) That Tony change got more publicity I think than the Tonys itself. I couldn't believe it. It was really funny. It took five people to change my clothes.

NR:  (laughing) Do you remember anything at all from that night?

KC:  No. B.D. Wong said that I turned into somebody he hopes he never sees again. I was yelling, (through clenched teeth) "Get these shoes off my feet! Get this wig off!" But I don't remember a thing. I was so nervous because I had to sing and then it was my category, and then I had to change clothes really quick and then see if I won.

NR:  And then give a speech.

KC:  And then possibly give a speech. And then, what are you going to say? That seven minutes will always remain definitely the most ... I think I was outside of myself watching.

NR:  What about right after that? The show closed.

KC:  It was bittersweet.

NR:  That must have been heart-breaking.

KC:  It was heart-breaking because the next day we got our notice, but our cast was pretty much aware that if we did not win the Revival category we would be closing. It was hard because for awhile word of mouth was that we were going to win it, that we were sort of coming up. I was still holding out hope. But, Annie Get Your Gun is wonderful too and I have many friends in that show. I was happy for them, but also sad for us because I knew. That's the part about show business that young people should really explore and know. It's a wonderful, wonderful gift to be on stage, but you have to also realize it is a business and that was a big lesson for me personally, to realize that though things are wonderful for you, your show is not going to be open in a week. It was very hard and I actually can't even think back to that last day because it's so emotional for me. We had sold out audiences all week.

NR:  It was a great show. I loved it. I was disappointed when it closed.

KC:  We had great feedback but we just didn't get enough business to keep it going.

NR:  I don't think they advertised it well. I think they advertised it to kids.

KC:  That's what went wrong. It's actually an adult show. Charles Schulz' humor is very sophisticated. It's the adults, the baby boomers that really loved it and they should have gone for that ... but live and learn.


(continued)

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