Kristin Chenoweth :: Changed for the Better
I often frame my experiences with music, and preparing for this interview I
kept hearing, "This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine..."
I suppose it’s in reference to size for this particular story, though like many people who are shorter in stature (I can attest to this because my mother is one of them at 4’11") it isn’t really about height, it is really more about the light that shines through. One could suppose, perhaps, that the extra glimmer might be there to make up for a little of the toe to head distance. I prefer to believe it’s because so much brilliance is packed into such a petite frame.
Though, in the case of Kristin Chenoweth, it really isn’t just a little glow... her "shine" literally blows off the barn doors. There is so much talent packed into this spitfire, it really is hard not to get caught up in her exuberance. Some may dismiss her with the pejorative "perky," but when she opens her mouth to sing, there is no way to shutter the power of this classically-trained, yet atypical coloratura soprano, as attested to by her popularity and many award-winning performances.
Her skills are indeed so wide-ranging (pun-intended), be it opera classics, Broadway hits, live performance or acting for film or television, including her latest foray into country music, it makes for a bit of a challenge to know on which to focus. From her first years singing on Broadway through her many accolades and awards, this woman has pushed far beyond her Oklahoma roots, though is still anchored by them. Strong Christian roots that have helped weather many a storm and continue to guide - but in no way limit her.
As she has said, "I think it’s important to remember that Christianity was based in love and tolerance and forgiveness and acceptance." Something that has shown itself in her steadfast support of LGBT causes and the many other issues she puts her considerable talent behind.
The following is a bit of the conversation we recently had:
It’s been a crazy year for you this year hasn’t it?
Yes, it’s been wonderfully busy and exciting and full of artistic challenges and creative amazingness. And to top it off, now the Hollywood Bowl - I’m like, what? - Are they sure?
I’m excited to see you there, you will be my introduction to the Hollywood Bowl, I’ve never had the chance to attend a performance there.
Oh, I’m so glad that you’re coming to see the show! It’s going to be so amazing and I get to be inducted with The Go-Gos and Pink Martini, both of whom I love, love, love!
I am so very honored to receive the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame Award. I still kind of think to myself, "Is this for real? Did they make a mistake?" I am very flattered to be a part of it because of all of the amazing people who have come before.
I have to pinch myself often (laughs).
I’m curious about where you grew up. Broken Arrow, correct? I love the name by the way!
I know; it’s funny isn’t it? It’s just outside of Tulsa. It’s a farming town and I wouldn’t trade growing up there for anything in the world. It’s a place with a real sense of community; people are really there for each other. Even though sometimes they kinda get into your business (laughs).
It’s sort of "Friday Night Lights" land. It wasn’t filled with much of an art focus, it was mostly sports, but I loved it and still do. My parents now live in Norman, OK where Oklahoma University is, and I go back whenever I can. I’m very proud of being from Oklahoma.
What was the single most significant thing that made you decide to pursue music?
Hmmm, I always knew that I wanted to perform and loved being on stage. Though my original dream was to be a ballerina. I was cast in "The Nutcracker" at the Tulsa Ballet Company, which is our professional company there and I was too little to fit into the mouse costume. That was kind of the "fun" part. I ended up getting fitted into a rabbit costume, whose job really is to just sit by Clara all of act two - just sit there (laughs).
I was devastated because I thought I wasn’t going to get the chance to dance. During the show one of the Sugar Plum Fairies was dancing with her little vine and dropped it. The stage was clear for a second with that little vine right in the middle and I remember thinking, "What would a bunny do?" So I hopped out there, put it in my mouth and hopped back (laughs) and the audience went insane.
In mind at that moment, I thought, "I’m supposed to be on stage forever, this is what I am supposed to do!" That’s kind of how it happened. Music was such a big part of growing up too, obviously, I also always sang in church.
Religious music is the starting place for many isn’t it?
Church was a very big part of life for me and really still is.
I read that you studied with the Metropolitan Opera at some point. Is that correct?