As part of the Nashville Symphony’s Pops Series, Emmy- and Tony-Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth kicked off a three-night residency at the Schermerhorn this Thursday, Sept. 27.
With grace and aptitude, the 4’11” singer charmed Nashville by making her home in New York City not seem so far away.
“I consider Nashville like a home,” said the Oklahoma native, who donned a Nashville Predators jersey at start. “When I was 18-19, I worked at Opryland USA in a show called Way Out West…I have had such a great journey. My friend Ty Herndon is here tonight…Larry Gatlin, I know you’re out there and don’t think I’m not a nervous wreck about it.”
Chenoweth then went into a mash-up of her own creating: Willie Nelson’s “Always On My Mind” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind,” weaving in and out of lyrics with the symphony.
“I’ve always felt that country music and broadway weren’t that much different,” she said to laughs. “We’re all just trying to tell a story, right?”
What was a departure from country music was Chenoweth’s calling out of another female artist, namely Mariah Carey. Prior to the Wicked original, “Popular,” Chenoweth portrayed Carey’s recent performance flubs as needing advice from Broadway stars, who notably sing live.
A mentor of new talent however, Chenoweth brought out Charlotte Leigh to sing on the popular Wicked duet “For Good.” “I heard this young lady sing on a video with a band she’s going to join called Backroad Anthem, and my extensions fell out,” Chenoweth joked by literally laying herself on the floor before the 21-year-old.
“One of the roles I am so honored to have as an artist is the role of mentor,” she continued. “I love to shepherd and foster new talent, and I want other people—especially other women—to know there is room for everyone…I have a theater in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. It’s nuts. I said to them, ‘I’m too young to possibly have something named after me.’ I see my dad’s name, and my grandfather’s name [above the performing arts center] and in February we hold the Kristin Chenoweth Broadway Bootcamp.”
It was announced today that NBC will air a live concert, A Very Wicked Halloween, on Oct. 29 for Wicked since celebrating 15 years on Broadway, when Chenoweth joined the original cast.
Chenoweth brought her musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell with her, a talent currently serving as Music Director, conductor and arranger for the musical Mean Girls. Backing Chenoweth on piano and conducting the symphony, Campbell at times took turns at the microphone both singing and narrating songs such as an anniversary song “Fifty Years Long,” a title she brought to Chenoweth by Jason Robert Brown with lyrics the star changed to “West Oklahoma” to reflect her parents. Additionally the two performed the Eagles’ “Heart Of The Matter,” in honor of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings—noting that making music is most important in times of pain.
Similarly, Chenoweth’s guitarist and boyfriend Josh Bryant was invited to the stage for accompaniment on a teary rendition of the Eagles’ “Desperado,” followed by an extended kiss of affection.
The 50-year-old playfully danced around the Bible Belt audience, noting her love for reality TV on the Bravo network, aimed at 25-54 year-old women as well as the LGBT community. “As a Christian person, it’s very interesting to be in show business. I probably haven’t made all the decisions a Christian person would make and that’s okay. I’m an artist too, and I’ve had tough decisions—some I regret and some I don’t—that’s life, right?”
Chenoweth then explained she felt obligated to sing a song honoring her faith in performing Les Miserables‘ “Bring Him Home,” a song that crescendos to Chenoweth’s jaw-dropping vibrato. This was performed with a dozen from Vanderbilt’s choir.
Although fully capable of the operatic highs, Chenoweth displayed impeccable constraint and control for emotive emphasis within on classics like Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart” and the Hoagy Carmichael-composed “I Get Along Without You Very Well.”
However, her fervent operatic display reigned on Henry Mancini’s “The Sweetheart Tree,” My Fair Lady’s “I Could Have Danced All Night”
“I’ve been allowed to sing all over the world and I’m so honored to stand in front of you on this beautiful stage, which is now my second time to be here, in front of what I consider to be one of the best symphonies in the world…I would like to go on the record saying I want to record an album with you.”
Chenoweth’s acoustic encore of Nat King Cole’s “Smile” was delivered after her salutation to the crowd, “I want to say God Bless you, and don’t forget to stop at the Loveless Cafe—biscuits and gravy and sausage,” she trailed.
Tickets for Friday and Saturday are still available at nashvillesymphony.org
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