Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth didn't come to New York to be on Broadway. A classically trained opera singer, she won the Most Talented Young Singer Award from Metropolitan Opera in 1993. But when the Papermill Playhouse discovered the petite blond, casting her as Arabella in Animal Crackers, Chenoweth was hooked into the world of musical theatre, a realm where she could use singing alongside dancing and acting. Since that first role, she's fashioned many a memorable comic character including the penniless beauty Hyacynth in Bill Irwin's Scapin, the desperate-to-be-a-war-bride Anne in the 1998 City Center Encores!'s Strike Up the Band, the perky waitress and nasty "thin" nurse in William Finn's A New Brain and her Theatre World Award winning role, the ditsy and ambitious Precious McGuire in Kander and Ebb's Steel Pier. Currently, Chenoweth has become the unexpected toast of Broadway as Charlie Brown's kid sister Sally in the Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.
Playbill On-Line: Who is your favorite person acting today?
Kristin Chenoweth: Somebody I've always admired is Sally Field. She has really solid technique. She's extremely versatile. I like to play the type of roles she plays.
PBOL: What is the most embarrassing thing that's ever happened to you on stage?
KC: I was at the Gutherie Theatre doing Babes in Arms [she played Sally] and I had a lot of wig changes. I had a pretty dramatic scene between me and the fellow opposite me. And I shook my head a lot, I guess. The wig fell off. It fell off! It's a big dramatic scene and everyone started snickering, including the audience. You know, there's absolutely no denying what happened -- there's no denying that you have no hair. You have a wig cap and a microphone. All I could do was say "I lost my hair!" and leave. Thank goodness I was angry in the scene anyway. Three weeks later, I heard people still talking about it.
Another time, when I worked at Opryland, I did a Can Can number and I forgot my trunks. It felt pretty breezy and I couldn't figure out why. And then I remembered, "Hi, I just did a complete high kick number with no trunks" --no wonder everyone looked really enthralled!
PBOL: What is your dream role?
KC: What my dream project has been -- and what I'd love to do again -- is the lead in Candide [Cunegonde, a role Chenoweth played two years ago]. Anytime I can do anything Gilbert and Sullivan because I feel because of my operatic background, I can combine my voice and the comedy together. Probably something interesting like Pirates of Penzanze. Gilbert and Sullivan really lends itself well to me.
PBOL: What credit couldn't you wait to get off your resume?
KC: I played Pauline in West Side Story... I had hardly any roles on my resume -- I was young, like college or younger -- and nobody knows who Pauline is. She's an American girl, a Jet girl, but she has one line. Every audition I ever went to, they were like, "And now who's Pauline?" And I'm like, "Why is this on my resume? Why do I put that on my resume?" PBOL: Who was your favorite Peanuts character?
KC: It's hard to say because I'm playing one that I love so much. You know it's really the truth. I was a little sister myself -- I had a big brother who I used to tag along after and probably irritated to death. I'd have to say Sally Brown because I relate to her. It's ironic that I'm playing her, because I can really remember getting frustrated about not being able to jump the rope or not being athletic or not being coordinated. I can relate to that. I'm a dancer, but I'm not athletic, if that makes any sense.
PBOL: What's it like playing a cartoon?
KC: It is a little odd -- which is exactly why I haven't approached the material like I have to play a cartoon. What I've been trying to do is focus on the character traits of this person -- what are they exactly and what can I bring out so that people will recognize the character that they've read about their whole lives. So I've tried not to look at it as playing a cartoon as much as bringing these characters to life and what they would be like if they were real people. But it does enter your mind every once in awhile -- "Oh, this is such a Sally moment," "Oh, this is so Lucy," "This is so Charlie Brown." It is weird to think, "Oh, I'm one of the Peanuts," but at the same time, I'm just looking at it as I'm playing Sally, bringing her to life, not as a cartoon, but as a person.
PBOL: Do you believe in the Great Pumpkin?
KC: Of course....At least this year I do!
--By Christine Ehren