Proof that good things come in petite packages, this pint-size powerhouse from Oklahoma has conquered Broadway and Hollywood. Is Nashville next?
Photography by Anthony Elgort
Kristin Chenoweth turns up the tunes on her pink ipad then adjusts the flounces on the cream-colored strapless dress she just slipped into. Stylists duck in to fit her with a Western belt and drape on some pearl jewelry. The hair-and-makeup artist puts a quick comb to the long blond curls framing Chenoweth’s one-quarter-Cherokee high cheekbones. And they’re ready to shoot.
While the singer-actress strikes poses, her “child” — a fluffy little white Maltese named Madeline (after that other dynamo, Madeline Kahn) — runs around sniffing out the on-location action at Hill Country Barbecue Market. It could be Austin, Texas, but this photo shoot is in Manhattan, New York, and Broadway sensation Chenoweth is in her element. Which is no surprise — there aren’t too many elements she’s not at home in.
When Chenoweth left her native Oklahoma for Philadelphia on a full scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts in 1993, she stopped off early in New York to help a friend move. She ended up auditioning for the musical Animal Crackers, landed a part, and never left. Now she lives part time in New York and part time in Los Angeles, but she’s always and forever rooted in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Home is also whatever stage she happens to be hitting on the road. Right after this shoot wraps, she’ll be off to more performances on her first concert tour, which winds up outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the Broken Arrow theater that’s been renamed in her honor.
It’s not for nothing that she was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2011. The vivacious and multitalented Chenoweth transitions effortlessly from Broadway stage to screen to concert venue. Wherever she’s performing, that big voice and huge personality coming out of that small person never cease to amaze both critics and audiences.
“I feel like a country music star!” the 4-foot-11 singer-actress exclaims, cycling through facial expressions for the photographer like the seasoned entertainer she is. And, in fact, Chenoweth is something of a country music star. Well-known for her triumphant turns on Broadway — notably her Tony-winning role as Sally in You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and her Tony-nominated role as Glinda in Wicked — the 44-year-old Chenoweth had three CDs to her credit before releasing her first country music CD, Some Lessons Learned, to good reviews and strong sales in late 2011. She made her Grand Ole Opry debut last September, performing songs from the record to enthusiastic applause.
Among the tunes she trotted out on that hallowed stage? A song she calls “WW Double D” — “What Would Dolly Do” (double-entendre most certainly intended) — in which Chenoweth takes imagined cues from Dolly Parton about how to deal with a cheating man. “I may not be from Tennessee, but you know I got a lot of Dolly in me” goes one line in the song. There’s more to the Parton tribute than their both being petite, bouncy blondes packed with talent. Parton has said more than once that she’d like Chenoweth to play her in a Broadway musical about her life. The admiring kinship is mutual. “What’s not to love about her?” Access Hollywood reported Chenoweth saying. “I love her. She knows how I feel about her and I’d love to play her.”
You'll find the rest of the feature about Kristin Chenoweth (as well as more photos) in the October 2012 issue of Cowboys & Indians, on newsstands the first week of September. Subscribe to print and digital versions by clicking here.