Kristin Chenoweth is nothing short of a national treasure. The 4'11" ball of light brings colossal joy to every project, conjuring up the thrilling performers of yesteryear. Lucky for us, K-Chen has a lot of exciting work on the horizon (and we're quite sure it's all "gonna be pop-u-larrrr").
For one thing, Kristin recently released her new album The Art of Elegance, and it's a masterpiece. Every note drips over your ears like honey into a teacup. Chenoweth reaches new heights in the work, managing to top herself with what I believe is a transcendent piece of art. In addition, Kristin is busy working on two highly anticipated productions - My Love Letter to Broadway and Hairspray Live!. The talent is set to return to Broadway with her concert event in November and the NBC live musical in December.
It was an honor to speak with Kristin about all of this and so much more. Please read our inspiring conversation below!
RP: It's great to talk to you again, Kristin - I'm a huge fan as you know! You have so many exciting things coming up, but to begin, congratulations on your new album release. The Art of Elegance is really a delight, filled with wonderful spins on classic songs. How did you go about choosing the music for it?
KC: I made a list of all the songs that are on my mind and in my heart, and then I cut about a hundred of them and there were still about 500 left. It was a very difficult decision, but it came down to some of the songs I really wanted to sing. A lot of them are new to me vocally. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t know “I’m a fool to want you” and now I can’t get enough of it. Thank you to Mr. Sinatra. It is such a thrill to finally get “Skylark” on my new album. There are a lot of heartbreakers on there, but I wanted to make sure I included the thrill of when you fall in love with someone, which is why we have songs like “the very thought of you,” “I’ve got a crush on you” and “smile.”
"because we can’t speak it: we must sing it."
RP: I love how you truly breathe new life into each track. What was your process for approaching the songs and making them your own?
KC: I always like to listen to other artists’ takes on specific songs. However, at some point you have to stop listening and start singing. And my producer, Steve Tyrell, asked me to sing each of these songs a lot. After you sing a song so much and investigate each phrase, it really does become yours. It might not be everyone’s favorite version, but it becomes a song that you know inside and out and that is why we sing, because we can’t speak it: we must sing it.
RP: I was listening to your interview on Z100 and found it amazing that you mentioned overseeing all aspects of the album's production. What did you learn from having so much input and control in it?
KC: A long time ago, Rosie O’Donnell explained to me that when your name is on something, you have to care about each aspect. For so many years, I have thought, “Oh, you’re just the artist. Shut up and sing.” But now, and this is only because of time and growth, I have learned that IS my name. I want to speak through this music and if I don’t care, how can I expect everyone else to?
"music is the universal language."
RP: I also can't wait for My Love Letter to Broadway. For that, I was wondering, how important the order of the songs is for you? I saw you at Carnegie Hall in The Evolution of a Soprano and the way you ended on an unamplified version of "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables was otherworldly.
KC: I believe song order and song choice are the most important aspects of any concert. A lot of people have amazing voices, but if songs are just thrown in the air without thought or an art put to it, I find that sometimes an audience can leave feeling unfulfilled or disappointed. I’m not one to just sing a song for no reason or because it’s a “hit” of mine, or because I want to show off any aspect of my voice; it all needs to make sense. I work very hard with the director, Richard Jay Alexander, and Mary-Mitchell Campbell, my music director, to understand how I want the ebb and flow of a night to be.
RP: When you picture one of your shows going up, who is your dream audience filled with?
KC: All the women that I worship. For example, if I looked out in the audience and saw Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, Renee Fleming, Sally Field, Adele, Dove Cameron, Bernadette Peters, Sandi Patty, women like that... And let’s not forget my family and friends. That makes any girl happy.
RP: I know everyone is also eagerly awaiting Hairspray Live! in December. I honestly wish you could be a part of every "live TV musical." What's that experience been like for you so far, and what can audiences expect to see?
KC: Thank you so much! I am so honored to have been invited to this party with what might be one of the best casts ever. I can promise you that the composer, director, writer, and choreographer are all looking to make this the best Hairspray ever. All I can do is learn my part and do the best I can. It’s a lot of pressure for one night, but that’s also what makes it so exciting. I actually can’t wait to have the experience!
RP: What an awesome cast! How has it been working with them?
KC: Everyone is so dedicated to making this great. It will be a fun team. I believe there will be a lot of acting and some real good singing!
RP: How are you preparing for your portrayal of Velma?
KC: I’m teasing my hair.
RP: That'll do it! This might be an odd question, but I find your twitter bio to be so interesting. "We sing because we can't speak anymore." Why does that resonate with you so much?
KC: It has been said that music is the universal language. I do believe that’s true. In my own life, there have been times when I have been speechless (I know, shocking) and sometimes the only way to communicate is through music.
RP: At RPP we're all about inspiring and motivating aspiring talent, so I was wondering what motivates you each day?
KC: It seems as if RPP and I are both motivated by the same thing. I am constantly inspired by the work I see being done on Broadway and on film. I am most excited by young artists who keep wanting to learn and grow, and work hard at their craft. When I see that, it fills me up. I have a theater that bears my name in Oklahoma. I’ve seen some amazing talent at our summer arts camp and masterclasses so far. That probably inspires me the most.
RP: As an inspiration to so many, what do you hope your career says to aspiring performers? In other words, what do you want ignite in others?
KC: I just want people to enjoy what they do, work hard, pray hard, and to re-inspire, leave your mark… Keep your head held high, and be willing to be a student forever, to keep growing and learning; that’s the only way we can move forward.
You can buy The Art of Elegance now. Be sure to follow Kristin on Twitter & Instagram: @KChenoweth.