Theater & art

The show goes on for Chenoweth

John Russo

A classically trained voice, enviable versatility, and 10,000 watts of verve: All have been Kristin Chenoweth’s trademarks as she has ranged from Broadway to television to the movies to the concert stage and back again.

Lately, the 46-year-old Chenoweth has added resiliency to that mix of attributes. Two years ago, while shooting an episode of CBS’s “The Good Wife,’’ she suffered a skull fracture and injuries to her neck, rib, and hip when lighting equipment fell and struck her.

Asked by the Globe about her recovery, Chenoweth replied: “You know, it’s a work in progress. I’m definitely happy to be here and making progress every day.’’ She added: “I do have a bad neck.” Indeed, a flare-up of her lingering neck problem prompted Chenoweth to undergo an MRI this week.


But she is still scheduled to perform Sunday in two concerts at Provincetown Town Hall. Mark Cortale, the producing artistic director at the Art House, who is presenting the concerts as part of the Broadway @ The Art House series, said by e-mail that he was “assured by Kristin that she is definitely coming and that everything is now fine.’’ The Town Hall performances will be the latest in a spate of appearances by Chenoweth that includes concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Royal Albert Hall in London.

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In addition, Chenoweth returned recently for the 100th episode of “Glee,’’ where she has a recurring role as loose-cannon April Rhodes. She won an Emmy Award in 2009 for her portrayal of Olive Snook in ABC’s “Pushing Daisies.’’

Of course, there are many who are adamant in their view that Broadway is where Chenoweth really belongs. (She won a Tony Award in 1999 for her portrayal of Sally in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown’’ and was nominated for one in 2004 for her performance as Galinda, later Glinda, in “Wicked.’’) For those devotees, there’s this: Early next year Chenoweth will star in a revival of “On the Twentieth Century,’’ where she will portray movie star Lily Garland. It’s a role that was once played by her idol, the late and very great Madeline Kahn.

Q. This is being described as your Provincetown performing debut. Have you ever been to P-town just to visit?

A. No, never been. This will be my first time. I have to get there early and check out the shops.


Q. I read somewhere that you sing a multilingual version of “Popular,’’ from “Wicked,’’ in your concerts. Is that something the Provincetown audiences should be prepared for?

A. Yes, I do. I do it in Japanese and German and Italian. If they come to the concert, they’ll find out why.

Q. It’s now been 11 years since you and Idina Menzel premiered in “Wicked.’’ The show and the cast album have been touchstones for a generation of young girls, in particular. Why do you think they have responded so passionately, and so personally, to “Wicked’’?

A. I believe it’s because there’s a little bit of Galinda and Elphaba in all of us. With Galinda, you saw — or at least I tried to portray — that the reason she acts so self-confident is that she’s very insecure.

Q. You perform pretty frequently in concert. Do you feel that concerts are a place where you can use all your performing muscles, from singing to storytelling, in ways that movies or TV shows or even a Broadway musical don’t allow you to do?


A. Yes, that is exactly how I feel. I feel happiest when I’m in concert, and most at home when I’m in concert. All of the material has been chosen by me for the concert, and it is that material through which I can say who I am. People walk out and they definitely know who I am. Whether they like it or not!

‘I feel happiest when I’m in concert. . . . People walk out and they definitely know who I am. Whether they like it or not!’

Q. You’re coming back to Broadway in “On the Twentieth Century.’’ You seem to choose your Broadway projects pretty carefully. But you must get deluged with requests to do this show or that show. What goes into your thinking as you weigh whether or not to commit to a Broadway run?

A. For me, it’s about challenging myself as an artist. This is going to be incredibly challenging: vocally, comedically, with physical comedy. It’s something that’s always been on my bucket list, since I was 19 and I first heard the score.

Q. You’re known to admire Madeline Kahn, and you even named your dog after her. I assume you know that she played Lily Garland in “On the Twentieth Century’’ in the late 1970s. Is that part of why you said yes to this role?

A. You bet. It certainly didn’t hurt.

Q. You recently returned to “Glee’’ for the show’s 100th episode. Do you think that “Glee,’’ along with “High School Musical,’’ has helped enlarge the young audience for musical theater? Do you sense a growing interest among young people in musical theater?

A. I can, absolutely. I would bet my life on it. When I was in high school, it was not the thing to be in drama or choir. Now I go back and there are 40 kids in drama.

Q. Though the end of your career is obviously a long ways off, is there a part you absolutely need to play, the way some performers absolutely need to play Lady Macbeth or King Lear or Mama Rose?

A. I always thought that I would grow into Mama Rose [of “Gypsy’’]. For me, though, I would have to say Mame. Partly because I’m an aunt. I didn’t choose to have my own children, but I have a lot of children in my life. I sort of am her. And I love Jerry Herman’s score. I also love “Hello Dolly!’’

Q. You’ve called yourself “the queen of multitasking.’’ Do you find it a stimulating challenge to move back and forth from Broadway, TV, film, and concerts?

A. Yeah. I have to stay in such good shape; I’m constantly working on my body. I’m also always working on my voice, so no matter what I’m called on to do, I’m ready at all times. For me it’s all the same: It’s all derived from a moment. If I stay true to whatever it is I’m doing, I can’t go wrong.

Interview was edited and condensed. Don Aucoin can be reached at