Kristin Chenoweth was in Nashville last night, performing her critically acclaimed concert act just for me-oh, sure, there were another 2,000 or so people in the audience, as well, who thought she was singing just for them-but she and I both know the truth. She looked straight into my heart and sang every one of my favorite songs and, in the process, she touched my heart in a way only someone who really knows me can do. And I feel certain that each of the other 2,000 or so people at TPAC's Andrew Jackson Hall walked away with that same response.
Therein, you see, lies the very secret to Chenoweth's success: She has a beautiful voice, one that is superbly trained and yet so versatile that she can sing anything; she is so positively authentic that she instantly draws audiences into her charmed circle; and, finally, she has this thing about her that makes you fall completely in love with her. Combine all those elements and it's easy to see why she was rewarded with nine-count 'em, nine!-standing ovations, each one deserved and each proving that she gave Nashville audiences one of their best concert experiences ever.
She may not have been born in Tennessee (she's a Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, girl through-and-through), but she has the instant likability and thorough accessibility that makes her seem like one of our own. It helps, of course, that she has a connection to Music City-at 19, she was cast in Opryland USA's Way Out West, she gave a performance at TPAC's Fest De Ville gala a few years back that people still talk about, and she recently spent time here recording her latest album Some Lessons Learned-that earns her the sobriquet "Nashville's own…"
Henceforth, we will now refer to her as "Nashville and Broadway star, Tony and Emmy Award-winner Kristin Chenoweth," as if in some way hoping that the luster of her starpower will reflect upon the people in her newly adopted hometown, the place where she jokingly said she was able to wear her hair bigger than ever before, knowing it would be readily accepted by her legions of fans. With her trademark wit and remarkable stage presence (oh, good lord, if she could only bottle and sell that particular attribute!), she stepped onto the Jackson Hall stage, took control of the crowd (once she was able to get 'em all to sit down) and proceeded to give each and every member of the audience their own personal concert. She showed off her easy way with a joke, performing the tongue-in-cheek "Goin' To the Dance With You" with the able assistance of her two handsome back-up singers, and she riveted her audience to their seats with a performance of "Maybe This Time" that makes you forget all other renditions of that particular Kander and Ebb showstopper.
During the penultimate performance of her 2012 national concert tour (she finishes up in Chicago tonight), her rapport with the audience was palpable, her delivery of her scripted patter genuine and somehow fresh despite the repetition of past shows, and her impact immediate.Revealing the woman behind the name-even in Nashville, people have followed her theatrical career from You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown to Wicked to Promises, Promises (and even Steel Pier and The Apple Tree); we've set our DVRs to record her many television appearances on The West Wing, Pushing Daisies and GCB; and we've bought tickets to every one of her movies (even RV)-she is sincere and authentic, as down-to-earth as her Broken Arrow upbringing would suggest and as awesomely gifted as those Emmy and Tony Awards celebrate. Steadfastly Christian in an industry in which her sincere faith renders her unique, she never resorts to proselytizing or preaching. Instead, she embodies all of that which her beliefs stand for…she is a good Christian woman who loves and celebrates all those around her with equanimity and grace.
Let's face it: Kristin Chenoweth is a 4'11" tall bundle of dynamite (not unlike our own Miss Brenda Lee, perhaps the one Nashville legend to whom she can most accurately be compared, although certainly her idol Dolly Parton-who makes taped appearances during the concert-is an easy choice) who, commanding the stage atop her towering stilettos, proves herself the equal of any of the titans of the American musical theater you could pick. And despite her reluctance to claim her own place among the firmament of Nashville's torch and twang royalty, she belongs here just as certainly as even Brenda and Dolly. Make no mistake about it, those two superbly talented women paved the way for Kristin Chenoweth to stake her claim, and we cannot help but believe they welcome her with arms wide open.