Audiences won’t find Peter Pan filling the air space at the Lunt-Fontanne this month, since Finding Neverland’s departed, but they might catch a high-flying sprite of a different kind: Broadway’s original Glinda the Good. She’ll have her feet firmly planted onstage this time around, and will appear under a different but equally recognizable name when Kristin Chenoweth delivers 12 performances of My Love Letter to Broadway.
This one-woman show is one of those specialty acts that James L. Nederlander brings in to keep his houses open and operative between theatrical juggernauts. Chenoweth’s musical missive falls November 2-13, right after Frankie Valli, with more actors to follow so as to keep the spot warm for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s early spring arrival.
“The Nederlanders have been good to me,” says Chenoweth, “and Jimmy’s been part of my career for a long time. It’s rare that people like me get this opportunity. That’s why I’m going to take it. I’m going to prepare, and I’m going to have fun.”
Part of the preparation for a performer to feel comfortable onstage in her own skin means being set forth in a fashionable manner, so one fine day in autumn, Kristin Dawn Chenoweth from Broken Arrow, OK, found herself in ninth-floor heaven in the Garment District, gliding among chiffon and gossamer.
Her designer of choice is Christian Siriano, who sprang onto the fashion scene when he won Project Runway’s fourth season and became the American design competition show’s youngest champion. Siriano, who turns 31 this month, scarcely shows his age.
“This is our first collaboration together,” she says. “I watched him on Project Runway, and I was obsessed. I always wanted to ask him, but I never thought he’d say yes, and he did. He’s taken the fashion world over, and Broadway will be next.”
Siriano admits that he’s not as up on Broadway designers as he should be. “It’s not my world—I’m just starting to dip into it—but, when I go see a show, I do admire what they can do. A performance every single night, and the clothes hold up! It’s unreal.”
He seems delighted to make his Broadway debut this way, starting small with a single star (arguably, the smallest with the biggest voice). “I think it will be amazing to see her move and perform because you only get to see the clothes that way. It’s just Kristin out there, so, obviously, we want every look to be quite of the moment.”
This experience is whetting his appetite for more stage adventures. “I’d like to do a bigger show one day, either a period piece or a fantasy with animal creatures, but that’s later down the road because you’d really need to give that all your attention.”
There’s much to choose from for the project at hand in his pristine, white-paneled show-room. Among the telltale orchids sprouting improbably here and there are 52 looks from this spring-summer collection, draped on racks or mannequins, each with shoe wear and accessories—as per his Payless deal—and then 27 bridal gowns.
The Kristin-Christian pick of the litter was plucked, surprisingly, from the bride’s side of the aisle. “We originally showed it as a bridal gown, but really it’s just a creative fantasy piece,” he explains of a gorgeous ombre-tooled organza ball gown that begins with a white bodice and ripples into rich fuchsia pink.
The other two Chenoweth looks that Siriano has come up with are in sharp contrast: “We’re actually doing extremes, from this ball gown to a really cool tailored suit and then a kind of jumpsuit type thing, so they are all three very different styles.”
The songs that will be accompanying these dresses in My Love Letter to Broadway promise to be as varied. She’ll sing “My New Philosophy,” the Andrew Lippa ditty that took Chenoweth’s Sally Brown to the podium for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and a fair share of the selection will be from The Art of Elegance, her sixth solo album and one that is filled with standards such as “Zing, Went the Strings of My Heart,” “Smile,” and “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”—songs that are more associated with Judy Garland than Lily Garland, the fugitive Oscar winner from On the Twentieth Century that was Chenoweth’s most recent Broadway role.
“That was the hardest part, ever, for me, but I loved it.” Chenoweth says, “I personally think that it was the best thing I’ve done.” She earned her third Tony nomination for the outing.
Richard Jay Alexander, who has directed her concert tours during the past four-and-a-half years, will helm My Love Letter to Broadway and teach her how to play a plausible Kristin Chenoweth. Is it harder to play yourself than a role? She turns the idea over in her head and comes up with: “When you play a role, you are that. This is a bit more exposed. It’s just a different animal, but you know what? It’s all hard, and it’s all fun.”
See photos from the full fashion shoot: