Kristin Chenoweth was only 8 years old when she first got bitten by the Broadway bug. And even though she was still in Oklahoma, more than 1,000 miles away from the Great White Way, she knew she’d get there one day.
“I remember watching the Tonys with my parents and I turned to them and said ‘I’m gonna do that.’ Isn’t that weird? I didn’t even really know what Broadway was yet,” says Chenoweth. “Back then, we couldn’t afford to go to New York and see a real Broadway show, so that’s how we connected to it.”
Now 40 years later, with one Tony Award under her belt for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (she was also nominated for her roles in Wicked and On the Twentieth Century)—and too many memorable turns to count on the big and small screens—the star is back to her first true love. Starting today, the actress will return to the stage for My Love Letter to Broadway, a limited-engagement concert event that will run through Nov. 13 at New York’s Lunt-Fontanne Theater.
We caught up with Chenoweth last week as she rehearsed for opening night and got the scoop on her handpicked set list, pre-show rituals, and amazing Christian Siriano-designed costumes. Read on for our interview with the star and for tickets or more information on My Love Letter to Broadway, visit kristinonbroadway.com. And check out Chenoweth's new album, The Art of Elegance, available on Amazon now.
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Congrats on the show! You’ve performed in so many iconic musicals over the years, how hard was it to decide on a song list for this one?
It was daunting! You want to give the audience what they want, but also keep moving forward as an artist with new material, too. I would say a little over half of my show is new to me. There is everything from “Popular” from Wicked to “A House Is Not a Home,” a song that has been in my life for a long time, but is done in a new way here. I’ll switch up the songs every night to keep things fresh. And you know, the first week of this show will be before the election and the second week after, so I’m writing some bits about that, too, depending on the how it turns out!
How did you prepare differently for this show? No character research needed!
It is a different beast. My mom always told me, “You do you. And don't worry about it.” She said that before it was popular! But it’s true, if I do me and I have fun, I can take the audience on a journey. It’s not at all like hiding behind a character. It's interesting for me.
Will fans see a different side of you on stage?
I want fans who maybe thought they knew me to think, “Wow, I didn't know she had that in her.” It’s important for people to understand that I'm now in my forties and I've lived. I think my new music reflects that.
Do you have any crazy pre-show rituals?
Yes! I have to crack everything in my body because I'm a former dancer and I’ve had too many injuries. So I crack my hips, my knees, my ankles, my neck—everything. Then I pray. I also sing scales. And right before I walk on, I do one big squat because then my knees pop. It’s really weird.
We heard that Christian Siriano designed your costumes for the show. How did that come about?
I first became aware of Christian from watching Project Runway. And for years I wanted to ask him to design something for me. I never thought he'd say yes because he doesn't really do Broadway—he's couture. But he did! I hope it’s the first of many collaborations.
Why was he the perfect choice for you?
I’m 4-foot-11 and when he met me he said, "You’re tiny, but you’re all legs and arms." He was right! It’s really tricky for me to get a great fit and he just nailed it. He dresses every type of body and everybody looks perfect.
What was the design process like?
Christian is so detail-oriented—he's a genius. And that’s a word that gets thrown around a little too much in my opinion. There are three costumes. One is a hot pink suit that’s more tailored and the jacket can come off. And then the second is a romper with shorts, so I need to start doing squats immediately. I’m not wearing pantyhose! Both of those costumes convert to do different things. And then there is the encore dress. If I don't get an encore I’m going to be heartbroken, mostly because the dress is so amazing.
What does that dress look like?
It’s a ball gown and in person, it is to die for. It weighs more than me. I said I wanted it to be pink, but I don't want it to only be pink. It’s like an ombre of perfect pink shades. If it were food, it'd be a cake.
And what will be on your feet under there?
I wanted couture-looking shoes, but they can't really be couture because they have to be singable and movable. So I went to get a special pair designed special from LaDuca. They're custom built, and they look like Christian Louboutin heels, but I’m not going to have a back problem afterwards.
You’re also starring in NBC’s Hairspray Live! on Dec. 7. What can you tell us about it so far?
People are confused when they say to me, “This will be nothing for you, because you're use to performing live.” Yes, I am used to that. But I'm also used to performing live several nights in a row, even up to a year, where I have many opportunities to get it right. This is a one-time deal. I am so frightened. But I will say my costumes and hair and makeup will be amazing. As long as I don’t fall!