Interview • Singer/actor put "Wicked" on the musical map, then charted her own course.
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If Kristin Chenoweth isn't America's sweetheart, she at least has strong claim to being our sweetheart of the stage.
The Oklahoma native with a squeaky speaking voice, silkily superlative soprano, and short stature first cut her teeth in gospel choirs for neighborhood churches. The rest of her story brims to overflowing with Tony Awards, Emmys, and various television and film appearances that her current state of eminence seems almost like destiny. She set the standard for all Glindas to come when she originated the role in the Broadway debut of "Wicked." If you want but a sample of her charm, check out her rendition of "Taylor My Latte Boy."
Chenoweth will perform a special New Year's Eve concert, already sold out, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts in Park City. She took a brief time out from working in Los Angeles to talk about the arc of her career, and the important of a good education for show-business success.
What would you say was the one central turning point in your life or career?
It was the first, and amazing, time in 1999 that I performed as Sally in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." I had no idea what was going to happen, but it blew up and became just this wonderful time. I never talk about the bad things, because that's just life. It's the good, and the firsts that count. Sally was the first role I truly loved. The Tony Award afterward was almost a gift of charity. It was a time in my life when I knew this was going to be fun, and everything changed for the better.
What advice would you give to youth who want to break into show business?
Do your best to go to college. If you don't know how to read music, you need to learn. You have to have peers who will teach you, and make you better at every turn. Life is life, and you have the rest of your time to live it, but if you want to get into this business you should absolutely get a higher education.
A lot has been made of your commitment to your religious faith and, at the same time, your comments in favor of gay rights. Is that a difficult balancing act?
The word 'dichotomy' applies to me. I guess I just always try to ask, 'What would Jesus do?' That can sound very Pollyanish today, but I do the best I can to live by that rule. Reading the Bible, I can't find any passage where he says judge others, don't accept them. I just try to abide by that. It has not been easy, but it's always who I am. If someone asks whether I'm a Christian, I'm very unapologetic about that. I also believe we're not doing others any favors when we're full of hatred.
What have your past visits to Utah been like?
I've had fun in Utah before, but my past visit was for a private job. I'm thrilled, because I've never been to perform in Park City and I've always wanted to go. I want to come in a couple days early so I can catch my breath. I want to be in top form. I'm praying I can get my breath. I have asthma, but I'm going to do my best.
Have you any special New Year's Eve songs on the Eccles Center repertoire?
Sorry, not telling. You'll have to come and hear for yourself!
When • Monday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.
Where • Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City
Info • $65-$160, sold out. Call 435-655-3114 or visit ecclescenter.org for more information.