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A True Performer

Whether singing or acting, Kristin Chenoweth’s passion for her work has made her one of today’s most beloved entertainers…

Siren of the stage and screen—both silver and small—Kristin Chenoweth has been entertaining audiences since she started performing as a child in her native Oklahoma. A veteran Broadway performer who originated the role of Glinda in the wildly popular show Wicked, she’s also appeared in several films and television shows, including turns on The West Wing and Glee. She’s recently been buzzing lately with the release of the My Little Pony film, in which she lends her voice, as well as the announcement of a new ABC pilot that she will star in and help produce. In the meantime, Chenoweth will be heading out on the road for a string of shows, including a tour stop in Tampa on Valentine’s Day with Andrea Bocelli.

We caught up with Chenoweth to find out more about how she teamed up with Bocelli, the new TV show and why she’ll always have a soft spot in her heart for Walt Disney World.

ORLANDO FAMILY MAGAZINE: When did you first realize you could not only sing, but sing really well?
KRISTIN CHENOWETH: I was in the third grade when I got my first solo—in church. I felt the spirit within me. I felt the audience reaction and I knew that was it. That was everything. I never looked back. I don’t know how to not be an artist. I honestly don’t.

OFM:You’ve performed on stage and on screen, in whatways are they similar and how do they differ?
Making a movie or TV show or a Broadway show is very close. Just play the character and it’s a win. Dialing back for movies or TV is the key. I love all kinds of work. I’m so honored and thankful to get paid to do what I love.

OFM: Is that instant reaction performing in front of a live audience something a stage actor feeds on?
I’m a creature of the live audience. That’s my drug, if you will. Making music is the single happiest pleasure in my life. I am constantly changing my show and changing material. I consider that fun. I could never “phone it in” as they say. I simply don’t know how to do that. The audience feeds me. Hopefully I feed them and it keeps going, full circle.

OFM:You’ll be doing a special Valentine’s Day performance with Andrea Bocelli in Tampa, how did all of that come together?
I was doing a Celebrity Fight Night in Rome and we ended up singing “The Prayer” together. He asked me to join him at Madison Square Garden for a couple songs. I can’t even believe it, I’m still pinching myself. This in an international star, someone that I really admire so honestly I’d come up there and change his jacket for him if that’s what he wanted.

OFM:What have been some of your favorite roles, either on stage or on screen, in your career thus far?
[Some of] my favorite roles are Lily Garland in On the Twentieth Century on Broadway, as well as Cunegonde in Candide. I also loved playing Olive on the TV show Pushing Daises. Frankly it’s hard to pick. I never take on a role I don’t feel connected to. What would be the point?

OFM: Is there a role or type of character you haven’t gotten the chance to play that you would like to tackle?
There are certainly roles I see in my future. I would love to play Mame or Hello Dolly. I also think maybe the greatest role for me hasn’t been written yet.

OFM:Growing up in Oklahoma, what was the arts scene like, how did you find your way into it?
I had the rare opportunity to come to New York City with a job at The Paper Mill Playhouse. I didn’t realize how lucky I was way back then. Since then I’ve come to understand how cool that was. I got my first agent and never looked back to a world without performing.

OFM:You’ve won an Emmy and a Tony, how far off until you capture the elusive Grammy and Oscar as well?
As far as any award I’ve won; I see now just how lucky I am. That hard work combined with the right roles has been rewarding. Now I just look to be “rewarded” by my work. Sure any awards are amazing, but I can’t even think of that when taking on a new album or role. It’s just simply about making something great and being proud of it.

OFM: Wicked has become such an iconic show, to have played such a big role in its rise in popularity, when you look back on it was its success something you envisioned back then?
I kind of had this feeling that Wicked would be a hit. But I’m just happy it struck a chord with a lot of folks, and not just people in theater. I’m so happy I’m associated with such a juggernaut. I am proud of it still. After 13 years it remains up there with the highlights of my life. Thank you Glinda!

OFM:You’ve talked about being adopted before and your positive experiences, but I also read that you had a unique encounter with a woman who might have been your birth mother, could you explain?
I don’t want to go into too much on my private adoption life. But it’s there and people know it. And all I will say is I have a great family. And I love that my birth mom loved me so much to try to give me a good life. I am a lucky girl.

OFM:Through your partnership with Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center, you are bringing theater to your hometown. Why do you believe the arts are important for today’s youth?
I know the arts changes lives, period. It certainly changed mine.

OFM: I know you performed in Orlando on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. How often do you get down to the area? Are you a Disney World person at all?
Yeah, I love Disney World. I didn’t get to go when I was growing up, so I went as an adult. I’ve played a few princesses and been in a couple Disney films and TV shows, it feels like it’s always home to me. I also really enjoy the people, how kind they treat everybody at the parks. I can’t wait to go back. I felt sort of singular in my love for musical theater. Now there is a theater with my name on it in my hometown. That comes with responsibilities of inspiring young people. And then of course, they inspire me. It’s my legacy and my greatest pleasure to see the growth.

OFM: Tell us about life with Meniere’s disease, what kind of difficulties does it present in your everyday life?
Having Meniere’s is my greatest Achilles heel. An inner ear problem that causes vertigo and migraines, I feel for any person who battles it. I have good days and bad days. I wish there was a cure. But for now rest and watching sodium is my key, and sleeping on an incline, which stinks. There have been some days I can’t even walk. It’s those times that frustrate me because it stops me in my tracks. Those people that have it know what I’m talking about. A lot of people struggle with different things though so I guess it helps me remember everyone has their pain to deal with. I just hate it though. I hate it.

OFM: You have many dedicated fans, have you ever had any unique or strange occurrences encountering one of them?
I’m lucky because I have pretty, allaround normal requests. But, yeah sometimes the requests can get a little weird [like] signing someone’s arm, [or] someone offering to have a child for me.

OFM: After all these years of performing, do you ever get anxious getting on stage?
Sure, I get anxious when I know people out there that are close to me, especially my family or close friends. I get nervous.

OFM: You will turn 50 next summer. Have you thought about that at all, any special plans to mark the occasion?
I don’t know where you get your information, I’m actually turning 20.

OFM:You are set to star in a new show for ABC, what can you tell us about it and when will it air?
I don’t know when it will air, but the script is due soon and I’ll get to start helping produce that. It’s basically a modern day version of Bewitched. A woman tries to do good in the world with her special talents.

OFM: Are you working on any new recordings?
I’m starting to think about that next record. I’d like to start working on that this month.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s January 2018 issue.

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