Kristin Chenoweth Returns to Carnegie Hall With The Evolution of a Soprano

By Steven Suskin
May 5, 2014

Tony Award winner Kristin Chenoweth presented The Evolution of a Soprano at Carnegie Hall May 3. Playbill.com was there.

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Kristin Chenoweth returned to Carnegie Hall May 3, ten years since her solo debut at the famed venue, with her new act The Evolution of a Soprano.

The Tony and Emmy Award winner took us step-by-step from her training in Broken Arrow, OK — with roots in classic and religious music — to Broadway and on. Richard Jay-Alexander directed, with musical direction from Mary-Mitchell Campbell leading a 13-piece orchestra.

The diminutive star entered in a strapless black gown with a glittering diamond choker and leapt into an Italian art song. After a minute, this was revealed to be a gag opening. She quickly jumped to her 1994 New York debut — or rather her second Off-Broadway show, in the long-running The Fantasticks back when it was down on Sullivan Street — and favored us with as good a rendition of "Much More" as we're ever likely to hear. She then talked about her first Broadway audition, for Kander and Ebb's Steel Pier. They wanted a tall chorus girl, she told us, but she sang her way into the show. Rather than singing her Steel Pier solo, she gave us Kander and Ebb's "My Coloring Book."

Keeping the evening on a humorous note, Chenoweth next recreated two of "the many roles that I never should have played ever." First came "Boobs and Butt," from a Christian-clean production of A Chorus Line. (From the look of it, she made an unparalleled Val.) This was followed by "My Lord and Master," as sung by this even unlikelier Tuptim in a Wichita production of The King and I.

The singer was then joined by Sam Poon, a local twelve-year-old boy soprano, for "Pie Jesu" from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. ("Never get on stage with someone cuter," she advised, "and the same height.") She followed this with what she called her favorite song in the world by her favorite composer, Jerome Kern's "All the Things You Are." (She later sang another Kern-Hammerstein classic, "Why Was I Born?"). Next came a multi-lingual version of "Popular" from Wicked.

The first act ended with two inspirational numbers, in which she was joined by Jennifer Diamond, Constantine Germanacos and Johnny Stellard. First came Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Come Again No More," followed by "Upon This Rock I'll Build My Kingdom."

Chenoweth returned sheathed in white — "I'm wearing a white dress without underwear," she informed us — and sat upon the grand to sing "Over the Rainbow." She then brought on composer/lyricist Andrew Lippa (Big Fish) to join her for "My New Philosophy," which Lippa wrote for Chenoweth to sing in the 1997 revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown. She followed this showstopper with a second, serenading Lippa (apparently as a surprise) with his "One Day" ("five more minutes until my brother is wed"). After a roaring ovation for this song about same-sex marriage, she added, "You can see why I'm a controversial Christian." When an audience member yelled out, "We love you," Chenoweth fired back, "I paid her to say that."

Next came Dolly Parton's "Little Sparrow" and Lloyd Webber's "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" from The Phantom of the Opera. The star then gave us a bit of Mozart in the style of the musically-challenged Florence Foster Jenkins before bringing out special guest star Deborah Voigt. The pair launched into Irving Berlin's "Anything You Can Do" from Annie Get Your Gun, somehow managing to mix in portions of Bernstein and Wagner. After a considerable amount of clowning from the pair, they did a medley of "You'll Never Walk Alone" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain."

Chenoweth ended the two-hour set by singing a song from a show she would like to appear in, "If He Walked Into My Life" from Mame. She dutifully returned for an encore, a beautiful and unamplified rendition of "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables.