The very first thing someone asked me when they found out that I was working with Kristin was, “Is she as nice as she seems?” The answer is……yes. She really is. My Aunt Nancy, who is a fan of Kristin’s TV show GCB asked, “Is she really little? She looks very small on TV, but you can never tell.” The answer is….yes. She’s 4′ 11 and I know this because she said it about 20 times in rehearsal as she was running a number about shoes.
But I’m ahead of myself.
Me and Kristin Chenoweth. These are not two names you would naturally put together. You would not say, “I’m going to see Kristin Chenoweth and Sharon Wheatley in Wicked.” You would not see us out for drinks. I have not taken her to Costco. We have–in fact–never met. Which is kind of astounding considering that we are just about the same age, we’ve worked on Broadway at the same time (not in the same shows, but the community is pretty small) and as we’re discovering, we have a sh*t load of people in common.
I remember seeing her in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and thinking–uh…okay…she’s like….crazy talented. The audience erupted around me and she went on to win a TONY. And then she got really famous in a way that 99.9% of all musical theater stars these days only dream about. How do I gauge fame? If my Aunt Nancy in Mount Carmel, Ohio knows who you are, you’re famous.
So how did I happen to be sitting on a floor with Kristin Chenoweth and a script?
Here’s what happened. I was minding my own business, sitting at home last Monday night, watching SMASH and getting ready to write my SMASH: FACT OR FICTION blog. The episode was chock full of theater stuff, so I was excited. On a commercial I checked my online popularity contest (Facebook) and had a message from Richard Jay-Alexander that read (wait, I’ll go get it and quote directly) “I need your HELP … ASAP!” with his phone number. I thought he’d been kidnapped or something. I didn’t really stop to think about why he would reach out to ME in this hostage situation, because an emergency’s an emergency, no time for questions. I strapped on my super hero cape and called ASAP (as requested). He answered the phone and said in that voice that is so famously Richard Jay’s (I’d do my impersonation for you if you were here), “Geez that was fast.”
I thought he was being held at gunpoint. Of course it was fast.
Turns out it WAS an emergency. A musical theater emergency. I have a Ph.D. in musical theater crisis care, so I confidently responded, “I’m all yours.”
To give you some back history here, I’ve known Richard Jay for years–20 years, actually, because he cast me in my very first big show, Les Miserables in 1992. If you’ve read my book Til the Fat Girl Sings (yes, the link is live and will take you to Amazon, and yes, this is a shameless plug, but you can also click on over and get Kristin’s book A Little Bit Wicked , so you see, I can plug for everyone). What was I saying? Oh yes, I write about RJA (Richard Jay) in my book. He’s always been very kind to me and has since gone on to make a serious name for himself in the directing-big-diva-concert-tours world, because he’s directed Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Lea Salonga, and I’m sure 50 more that I’m not remembering…..but you get the point. You might, uh, recognize some of those names I just dropped.
The point? He’s a big deal, especially in the “Diva” crowd.
Now I have absolutely no idea how much I am allowed to say about what I was asked to do, because it might be a big secret and I could be shot if I tell you, but let’s just suffice it to say that it has to do with a show I may…or may not have done recently. That show may…or may not have specific skills needed. That show may…or may not have characters that are actually smaller than Kristin Chenoweth. That show may…or may not have opened the same year as Wicked. I may…or may not have just given too much away. But I didn’t really, because it’s funny and surprising and you just have to go see it for yourself.
Here’s what I can tell you after being in rehearsals. Kristin Chenoweth is hilarious, and then she’ll break your heart, and this concert is going to kick ass. Mary-Mitchell Campbell, who is the coolest music director this side of India is at the helm, and there are three big time Broadway talents (Tyler Haynes, Chelsea Packard, and Will Taylor) joining her onstage.
I can assure you that if you have a favorite Kristin song it is probably there, but there will be plenty of surprises, too.
When I asked Kristin why she wanted to do this tour, she explained that she has new things to say. We talked about people changing and growing, and how sometimes new material is needed to match the person you’ve become. I talked a little about my transition to writing, we talked about women we admire, we talked about how hard it is to get a “good girl” label, and then be called a bitch when you come out with a strong opinion.
We hit it off. I like her in a “let’s have a glass of wine and talk about life” kind of way, but also in a “let’s laugh until we are sick” kind of way. But mostly in a “I admire your work” kind of way.
Go see her concert. It’s playing 19 cities (schedule below), and it’s worth every penny.
Besides, you’ve just GOT to see her shoe collection.
This is her website: http://www.kristin-chenoweth.com/events
(SMASH Fact or fiction is tomorrow! Same time, same place. Set those DVRs and get your buzzers ready!)
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