Kristin Chenoweth Is Ready for the Show to Go On Again

She has a new series set in the world of musicals, and Broadway’s reopening in sight. In this essay, the star says her jazz hands are ready for action.

Kristin Chenoweth
Photo: John Russo

The process of creating a character is a total escape for me. It's fun to land a part that you never thought you'd play and just get to feel like another person for a little bit, taking people along to enjoy the ride. Doing a role onstage is such a different experience from concertizing with a symphony or writing an album or song, but I've always liked to ping-pong across lanes and do it all. I never thought there would be a time in my life when I couldn't perform.

In early 2020, I was getting ready to tour a show for my album For the Girls after a weeklong concert series on Broadway. Of course, we all know what happened next. I'm not going to cry in my soup about it, because everybody was in the same boat. We were all in shock. I think going back is finally starting to feel real. People are rehearsing their songs and doing some squats to prepare. I know as soon as those Broadway lights turn on, I'll be glad to see any production of anything, anywhere, with any people. I don't do drugs, but I imagine that the first time being back in an audience will feel like doing drugs.

When I get out there to perform again, I'll pay homage to my last album—but new songs will need to come in too. Music has changed for me during the pandemic because I've changed. I've had a lot of loss and went through seven weeks of depression. My best friend took matters into his own hands, and he's no longer here. Three days later, I lost another friend to COVID.

There's a hospital outside of my apartment in New York, and in the middle of the night I saw bodies going into refrigerated morgues. I had to figure out how to unpack all of that. It helped that I was able to give back in some way, like being part of Stars in the House's "Saturday Night in Bathroom" YouTube series to support The Actors Fund. It was too dangerous to do my Broadway Bootcamp [for high school students] last year, but kids have been given the total shaft in all of this and I didn't want them to miss out again. So this summer we'll have live classes and some of my famous friends will be teaching virtually. It might not be the best, but it's still going to be awesome.

Kristin Chenoweth
Chenoweth, in character, on Apple TV+’s Schmigadoon!, out July 16. Courtesy Apple

I consider myself blessed — a word which has taken on different meaning for me now — to have had opportunities to work throughout the pandemic. But I never went a day without singing, and as soon as my pianist was able, I flew out to L.A. to work on [Food Network's competition series] Candy Land. After that, I went to Canada to film [the new Apple TV+ show] Schmigadoon! I thought the concept was funny: A couple gets lost in a musical, and they can't get out. It's hilarious for people who hate musicals. I play the town biddy, Mildred, who's afraid of growth and doesn't want change or outsiders in her town. She's not very nice, but I was happy to escape into someone again, Joker lips and all. I was also given the challenge of my career to sing a killer 18-page number in one shot, no cuts. I was pretty nervous about that, but those little butterflies just mean you still get excited about what you do.

If I were to write a love letter to Broadway right now, it would say, "Kristin Chenoweth: Open for Business." I still have my down days like everyone else, but I see the light. I can't wait to get back onstage now that I'm vaccinated. I've got a bedazzled hazmat suit ready to go. I had it made a while back, and it'll be good that I'm wearing it since I'm sure I'll cry when I finally get out there. I want everyone to forget their problems and experience joy for a little bit — we're going to cry and laugh and just be together. My jazz hands may be calmer, but they have much more to say.

For more stories like this, pick up the July 2021 issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download June 18th.

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