It’s a two-for-one entry day, everyone! I am only a bit late to the bandwagon with this review; a week or two ago, PBS’s Great Performances broadcast Kristin Chenoweth’s live concert, “Coming Home,” in her hometown of Broken Arrow, OK. And she performed in an arts center named after her, no less! Before I begin critiquing Kristin’s interpretation of this show’s repertoire, allow me to say this- I’m more than a little obsessed with the blue dress she wore in the second half. Furthermore- as with the Annie soundtrack review, this one will be done on a (mostly) song-by-song basis. I say “mostly” because I watched the concert on my DVR last night and do not remember every number clearly. I may have to watch it again and take notes, but for now, I’ll be sharing my initial ideas.
“I Could Have Danced All Night” This My Fair Lady classic opened the performance, and Kristin sounded great- unfortunately, her hand gestures were out of control. She also opted for an extra-high note at the end, which isn’t written in the original score. However, I can overlook it because Kristin’s ridiculously wide range is her trump card. If I could hit a C6, I’d want to take advantage of that, too.
“Maybe This Time” This famous song is from the Kander and Ebb musical Cabaret. Again, Kristin’s problem lies in her inexperience with “serious” roles. It’s not really her fault- she is trained as a comedienne- and it is nice to see her step out of her comfort zone. However, she’ll need to get her feet wet in the dramatic arena before she can effectively tackle a song as dark as this one.
“My Coloring Book” Now here is a dramatic song that Kristin can pull off- it’s not as dark as “Maybe This Time,” and its subdued lyrics are offset by a certain kind of charm. According to the story Kristin told before she did the number, this was a song she was asked by a voice teacher to not sing until she understood it better. That voice teacher was in the audience, and she gave her two thumbs up!
“Bring Him Home” Boy, is it weird to hear a woman singing this. The song, in context, is supposed to portray a father figure asking the Lord to protect “the son he might have had.” Nevertheless, it did sound really lovely, and thankfully Kristin was accordingly taking on a prayerful mood.
“Over the Rainbow” I had no idea this song had a first verse before the portion we hear Judy Garland do. I should note that this is the part where Kristin started wearing the killer blue dress. Anyway, this song reminded me of “My Coloring Book” (ironic!) in terms of how she carried it. It was wistful and expressive, with just the right amount of serenity to get the job done. Fittingly, this number led right into…
“Popular” This is one of Kristin’s signature songs, and one of my favorite moments in the concert. I should hope she’d do well with a song that she originated- however, this version had an amazing twist. She sang each verse in a different language, five total! This interesting aspect turned an otherwise done-to-death song into something fresh and just as fun as the first time I saw it live (with Kendra Kassebaum in 2006).
“For Good” This was another highlight of the evening. How’s this for a dream come true- Kristin selected a teenager from Broken Arrow, Axel, to sing the Elphaba section of the piece. The girl had a good voice, although you could tell that she (understandably!) was shaking in her boots (in the best way!) to be up there.
“Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” And a quick change from the wonderful (pun intended) Wicked tribute means that this was EASILY the weakest moment. If you know The Phantom of the Opera, you know that this is a lament over a deceased loved one. It’s a beautiful, sad song. And this was the ultimate kick in the head- I could have sworn Kristin was SMILING at certain points as she sang. No, no, and no. If you can smile during this number, you’re clearly not feeling its emotions at all. Christine Daae she ain’t.
“All the Things You Are” Who is Kristin Chenoweth’s favorite composer? Is it Stephen Schwartz? Nope. Leonard Bernstein? Almost! Indeed, her favorite composer turned out to be Jerome Kern! So this song, one of Kern’s signatures, was great to hear. It’s neither comic nor dramatic, so Kristin’s vocal ability was really able to take center stage. Her pipes are especially suited to music from the Golden Age of Broadway.
“I Was Here” When I first saw the title of the finale, I thought she was going to tackle the Beyonce song of the same name that was covered on gLee. But I had never heard this song. Nonetheless, it was a great way to end the show, and there was even a youth gospel choir singing backup- an exhilarating, hopeful conclusion to an evening of marvelous music and a lot of heart from the one, the only- Kristin Chenoweth.
(Catch Kristin live in NYC when she portrays Lily Garland in the upcoming Broadway revival of On the 20th Century at the American Airlines Theatre.)