In last year’s NBC’s Hairspray Live!, she starred as Velma Von Tussell creating a whole new take on the hilarious soundtrack song “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” “The role of Velma wasn’t easy to play as she wasn’t a very likeable character,” Chenoweth explains, “But I wanted to honor Linda Hart who played her on Broadway as well as Michelle Pfeiffer who starred as Velma in the big screen version.”
What does a Broadway star; award-winning television and film actress, in-demand voice-over performer and renowned concert entertainer have in common? The answer is simple. All these talents are found in one woman; Kristin Chenoweth. From garnering the prestigious Tony and Emmy Award, to being inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, and getting her own star in 2015 on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, this vivacious, multi-talented actress and musical performer, transitions effortlessly between stage, screen and the concert world.
Not quite five feet tall, with a lovely heart shaped face and lustrous blonde hair, Chenoweth has been a giant presence in the entertainment world for more than twenty years, receiving the coveted Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, for her work in the television series Pushing Daisies, being honored with the Tony for her Broadway stage portrayal of Sally Brown, in the revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, to her recent well-reviewed turn in NBC’s Hairspray Live!
Frequently living out of suitcases and eating in hotel restaurants, as well as constantly being tempted by the buffet style food always available on television and film sets, this compact package has to work at keeping her body fit as well as her voice in shape. “I think walking is underrated,” Chenoweth smiles. “I live in New York, and that’s how we do it here. I also try to keep the sweets to a minimum… that’s very hard. And I’m really trying to increase my water intake. Also, I’m a big fan of sleep. Our bodies heal when we sleep; although I’m not always great at this, it’s a constant challenge that I try to master.
“When I’m touring I workout in the hotel gyms, and weather permitting, I love to walk around the town I am in. It’s fun get to know the area a bit as well as meet new people. Exercising and meeting new people at the same time = awesome!” Chenoweth goes on to say that staying healthy is the only way she can be on the road and achieve success both as a musical technician and an artist.
Although she now calls New York home, Chenoweth was born and raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and cherishes the years she lived there. Her upbringing has played a huge part in her music and acting and is more a part of who she is than the fifteen plus years she’s lived in big cities, on both coasts. Country is still at her core.
“There is a theatrical feeling in country music,” she says. “I believe it could be one of the main connections as to why I love opera and musical theatre. Everyone thinks these worlds are so different. But in my mind, if a song tells a story, it doesn’t matter what world it’s supposed to fit into.”
This down home philosophy and remarkable voice have served her well; making her Broadway debut in the l997 musical Steel Pier, two years later she was cast as Sally Brown in the huge hit of the revival of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Getting glowing reviews and winning the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical, this was the role that made her a Broadway star. By 2000, television started taking notice, and NBC developed a semi-autobiographic comedy series for her; called, what else Kristin. Lasting just half a season, Chenoweth went back to Broadway and her starring role in Wicked, the story of the early years of the Witches of OZ.
Blending both her love of music with acting, she starred as Marion, the local librarian opposite Matthew Broderick in the television adaptation of Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man. Two years later she joined the cast of The West Wing as Annabeth Schott for two seasons.
One would think that there wouldn’t be room on Chenoweth’s dance card for another project, but Nicole Kidman who was in the middle of filming the movie remake of Bewitched, saw Wicked, and was so impressed with her performance, that she asked the movie’s director, Nora Ephron, to cast her as her character’s neighbor. “I had most of my scenes with Nicole and she was delightful,” says Chenoweth. “She’s kind of a regular girl from Australia with this amazing movie career.”
Thus a film career was born with roles in RV, opposite Robin Williams, the remake of The Pink Panther, with Steve Martin, Four Christmases opposite Reese Witherspoon, and You Again with Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristen Bell. In last year’s NBC’s Hairspray Live!, she starred as Velma Von Tussell creating a whole new take on the hilarious soundtrack song “Miss Baltimore Crabs.” “The role of Velma wasn’t easy to play as she wasn’t a very likeable character,” Chenoweth explains, “But I wanted to honor Linda Hart who played her on Broadway as well as Michelle Pfeiffer who starred as Velma in the big screen version.”
Chenoweth will also be seen this fall in My Little Pony: The Movie, and is currently in Toronto filming Perfect Citizen. “Think Edward Snowdon + law firm + Boston + excellent writing. “I just love to perform,” Chenoweth explains about her diverse career, where she is constantly exploring different mediums and characters. “It kind of goes back to what Dolly Parton does; she’s an entertainer with an amazing voice as well as a smart business woman. Sometimes I just sit down and watch Nine to Five because it makes me so happy.
“When I went in to audition for RV, the director said ‘I hope you can act as you’re so perfect for this part.’ It worked because I’ve done the RV thing; these are my people. I’ve also starred as a abused woman who turns to prostitution in the independent film, Into Temptation, as I have a dramatic side, being on The West Wing for two years.”
Continuing to perform in front of sold out concert venues in the thousands, and to television and movie audiences in the millions, Chenoweth still remembers that young girl who performed gospel at many of Oklahoma City area churches, laughing that a highlight of that time, “was when I belted out the song by Norwegian contemporary Christian singer Evie Tornquist, called “Four Feet Eleven.” The chorus begins, ‘I’m only four feet eleven, but I’m going to Heaven, and it makes me feel ten feet tall.’ Obviously I related to that song for many reasons.”
PS: “ I would like to say hi to my family in Colorado. My brother and his family live in Golden; and my cousins live in Steamboat Springs. Whenever I’m there, I somehow feel that God might have come down with his big finger and touched the state with it.”