By Melissa Shaw
Tony- and Emmy-winning singer Kristin Chenoweth delivered an intimate, powerful performance at Boston's Symphony Hall last night, an evening that seamlessly paired one of Broadway's top sopranos with one of the world's most acoustically perfect concert halls.
Presented by the Celebrity Series of Boston, the 90-minute concert celebrated Chenoweth's latest CD, The Art of Elegance, in which she interprets classic standards from Gershwin, Sinatra, Rodgers & Hart, and more.
Joined by pianist (and Worcester native) Michael Orland, the solo accompaniment allowed Chenoweth's four-octave range to soar clear and strong; audiences silently hung on every syllable, consonant, and breath until the last note ended. A master performer, Chenoweth can certainly embody a song, her expert musicality and delivery wringing out everything from the regret and melancholy of Hoagy Carmichael's "I Get Along Without You Very Well" to the upbeat, punchy, fun of the Judy Garland classic, "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." Chenoweth noted the physical similarities between herself and the latter icon -- they share the same height, 4'11", and are tiny women with gargantuan voices.
At ease and effortless after nearly two decades on stage, Chenoweth spent a good portion of the show talking to the audience, making the concert hall feel like her living room. She caught the crowd up on the latest in her life -- a move, a two-week concert run on Broadway, the death of her beloved dog, Madeline Kahn Chenoweth, and shooting a new pilot set in Boston ("I shot a pilot -- not United, for CBS," she joked). The Oklahoma native endeared herself to the crowd, sipping from a large Styrofoam Dunkin Donuts cup throughout the evening, and early on announcing, "This is my second favorite place in the world -- don't tell New York."
In between songs, she explained her song choices and her connections to them via stories ranging from funny to tragic. As she told baystateparent in an interview last month: "I would like to show the audiences who I am as a person; and the way I get to do that is through my music." Mission accomplished: Audience members who enjoyed Kristin Chenoweth as an actress or singer came away knowing more about Kristin Chenoweth as a person last night.
As sparkly and bright as her black and silver cocktail dress, she delivered her own fan favorites, "Taylor, The Latte Boy" and "Popular" from the smash musical Wicked, songs she joked she will be singing into old age or else would face the wrath of the audience. She also put her mark on Broadway classics, such as "Dance Ten, Looks Three" (A Chorus Line); "I Could Have Danced All Night" (My Fair Lady); and "Bring Him Home" (Les Miserables). Of particular note was a late-in-the-show medley blending Willie Nelson's "Always On My Mind" with "Losing My Mind" from Stephen Sondheim's Follies. They're two songs -- and artists -- you'd never expect to work together, but Chenoweth paired with perfectly.
Following that, Chenoweth talked about mentoring young singers, and did so right on the spot, as she was joined on stage by 12 students from Boston Conservatory and Boston City Singers. The youth combined to help her deliver a powerful version of "Upon This Rock," which moved her to tears, followed by "I Was Here."
The evening ended with Chenoweth's encore, in which she retired her microphone for the night and stood at the foot of the stage singing Charlie Chaplin's iconic "Smile", effortlessly projecting emotion and pitch-perfect tones throughout the hall with no amplification outside her own talent.