Yes, Kristin Chenoweth is tiny (4 feet 11 inches).
Yes, she won a Tony Award as best featured actress in a musical. But not for the show you think. (The answer is at the end.)
She won an Emmy, too. (Also at the end.)
She has given solo performances at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House. And she has had four albums and six single releases make it into Billboard’s Top 100.
Remarkable? You bet — people just don’t have careers like that anymore. Oh, and did I mention her performances on “Glee”?
By any measure, Chenoweth is the real deal. Even better, she’s coming to Cincinnati on June 25 for a one-night gig with the Cincinnati Pops.
“I know that I’m lucky,” said Chenoweth, speaking by phone from her car. She was on the way to catch a flight out of Los Angeles. Her destination? New York, where she would record a short but hilarious segment on retirement plans for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” (It aired June 12.). Then it’s off to Michigan for a concert performance at the Matrix: Midland Festival, followed by more performances in Texas. And Chicago. And, finally, Cincinnati.
“I love my life,” said Chenoweth. “But it comes with a lot of sacrifice. I don’t get a lot of free time.”
She insists that the hectic schedule that has come to define her life will change at some point.
“I’m getting to that place in my life when I won’t be able to keep it up,” she said. “Eventually, you want to hang out with your friends or take a vacation and go to Oklahoma.”
The reference to Oklahoma isn’t some laugh line, incidentally. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma — a Tulsa suburb — is where Chenoweth was raised, and she is very proud of it. She’s even a member of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. In 2012, the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center renamed its 1,500-seat main hall the Kristin Chenoweth Theater.
But slowing down? Don’t believe it. True, she turns 48 next month. But when she performed a 22-week Broadway run in “On the Twentieth Century” last year, New York Times theater writer Ben Brantley said she uses her character’s “histrionics to create one of the most virtuosic portraits in song ever on Broadway.”
She remains, in every way, a theatrical powerhouse.
Jo Rowan, dance chair of the School of American Dance and Arts Management at Oklahoma City University, said that’s exactly how Chenoweth was when she arrived at the school at the age of 18. Rowan, from Erlanger, performed with the Cincinnati Ballet and Cincinnati Opera and earned a master’s degree in dance from CCM.
According to Rowan, Chenoweth’s original goal at OCU was to be a ballerina.
“She started out as a dance major,” said Rowan. “But our program is aimed at training triple threats — dancing, singing and acting.”
Clearly, Chenoweth excelled in all three. After earning a bachelor’s degree, she stayed at OCU and earned a master’s degree in opera performance and headed east to make her way into the operatic big time. Along the way, she took a turn into the world of musical theater. But Rowan said an opera career was never out of reach for Chenoweth.
“She could do anything she wanted to,” said Rowan. “She was the cutest, most adorable kid. She was spectacular. Outstanding. She can do everything. And I know she can still do everything.”
For the moment, though, Chenoweth wants to keep doing concerts like the one she’s doing here in Cincinnati. And write another book. She had a ghost writer on her first one. Next time, she wants to do it all.
She’s got a few Broadway roles she would still like to do, including the title roles in “Hello Dolly” and “Mame.” And then there’s the role of Tammy Faye Bakker she performed in a reading of the musical “Rise” in 2011. She bubbled with excitement as she ran through the list.
“And . . . ” She stopped herself. “Well, I can’t say anything right now. But I do have something in the works. And you’ll be hearing about that soon.”
In the meantime, here are the answers to those questions at the beginning of this story.
Chenoweth’s best-known Broadway role was Glinda in “Wicked.” And she was nominated as best actress in a musical for the role. But the winner that year — 2004 — was her co-star, Idina Menzel, who played the role of Elphaba. Chenoweth won her Tony for the role of Sally Brown in 1999’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”
As for her Emmy, she was named best supporting actress in a comedy series in 2009 for the role of Olive Snook in “Pushing Daisies.”
Kristin Chenoweth with the Cincinnati Pops
8 p.m. June 25
Riverbend Music Center
Tickets: $15-$85, $25 lawn; 513-381-3300 or cincinnatisymphony.org