DIVA TALK: Catching Up With Tony and Emmy Winner Kristin Chenoweth

By Andrew Gans
01 Jun 2012

Chenoweth in Wicked.
Photo by Joan Marcus

And, how have audiences been reacting to her new program? Chenoweth pauses and says, "How do you say this? You want to be careful, [but the] first night there were eight standing ovations, and so it's been sort of shocking even to me because I wasn't sure about some of the music.... I knew I wanted to sing certain songs, and any doubt I had has just been reinforced by the audience. And, I'm such a creature of the theatre, [and] I've realized I have to be in front of a crowd. I just have to… I'm born to do this, and I'm so happy I get to. Not everybody gets to do it, and I get to do it, and I get paid for it, and I love it! ... And, I'm getting to grow as an artist. I've been freed. I just think people have to see this show to know what I mean when I say that."

Those who catch the show in Manhattan also have the chance to purchase tickets to an after-party that will be held in the Grand Tier Lobby to benefit Chenoweth's charity, Maddie's Corner. "A lot of people that know me know that I have a dog, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth, and a few years ago," Chenoweth explains, "I wanted to start a charity, and basically our slogan is, 'Animals helping people helping animals.' For example, when I played in Dallas, we had two dogs from the local shelter there that needed to be adopted in our lobby beforehand, and the money that we raised through Maddie's Corner will go to different charities all over the country, and basically it helps animals be adopted. I'm adopted myself, so it's something I understand, but I love animals so much. I grew up with tons of them, and I grew up with relatives who were farmers, so I know a lot about the peacefulness and the wonderful things that an animal can bring to your life. For example, when Katrina happened, we were able to help displaced pets be replaced into new homes." And, those who attend the after-party will receive a special gift. "I'm most proud of the gift bags," Chenoweth says with a big laugh. "We have a lot of great, cool items to give. Mainly, I'm just glad that we're able to bring more awareness about Maddie's Corner."

Chenoweth on "GCB."
photo by ABC/Karen Neal

The former star of Wicked, The Apple Tree and, most recently, Promises, Promises, says fellow Tony winner and animal champion Bernadette Peters has been a big influence. "She has been such an influence on me as a person — an entertainer, an actor and singer — and she's giving back in a huge way with Broadway Barks. I, too, am such an animal lover, and Maddie's Corner gives to Broadway Barks as well."

Although she got her start on New York stages, winning a Tony for her delightfully comedic performance in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, Chenoweth has developed an equally strong and devoted television following through her Emmy-winning work on "Pushing Daisies," "Glee" and the recently canceled ABC series "GCB." About the latter Chenoweth admits, "It was a real heartbreaker. I [was surprised by the cancellation] because our ratings were very good, especially once we would get the DVR numbers in. And, there's been all kinds of people signing petitions to save the show. Bottom line is this — now I understand the part of the business so much better than I did 12 years ago. Television is a lot about advertising, and we had a lot of major advertisers that pulled out because of the controversy of the show. And, it really hurt. It really bothered me, especially because I am a person of faith, and I wouldn't do anything that made fun of it, but when Kraft and Motorola and people like that are pulling out, that's how ABC makes their money. ... It was disappointing, but you move forward because you have to, and life is short. I've mourned it. I'm still sad about it. ['GCB' character] Carlene Cockburn probably makes an appearance at my concert — she's not dead yet. She's still there!"