Over the years, Kristin Chenoweth has practically become a one-woman variety show, a triple threat who has tried everything from co-hosting awards shows and recording country and gospel albums to acting in movies and giving Emmy-winning television turns.
But the Broken Arrow native knows that many people primarily regard her as a star of the Great White Way.
“I will continue to put all kinds of music out there because I love all kinds of music ... but the truth is I am linked to Broadway forever. And I'm very proud of that,” Chenoweth said in a teleconference before co-hosting December's American Country Awards for the second straight year.
On Sunday, Chenoweth, 44, will pay homage to “The Dames of Broadway — All of 'Em!!!” during a special “Live From Lincoln Center” concert televised on PBS. Part of the center's “American Songbook” series, the show will air at 7 p.m. on OETA.
Mary-Mitchell Campbell and Richard Jay-Alexander will join the Oklahoma City University alumna in performing the greatest hits from musicals including “42nd Street,” “The Most Happy Fella,” “Carousel,” “Show Boat,” “Wonderful Town,” “The Music Man,” “Sweeney Todd,” “Funny Girl” and “Hello, Dolly!”
“Nothing makes me happier than to be doing what I love to do, and that's singing,” Chenoweth said. “I've always said that that's the way I want to die ... which sounds a little morbid, but I would, because it makes me happy.”
Her musical tastes are as varied as the rest of her resume. With her 2002 appearance in the Lincoln Center's “American Songbook” series, she performed songs from “Let Yourself Go,” her album devoted to songs from 1930s musicals. She followed that collection with a gospel album, “As I Am,” in 2005; a holiday offering, “A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas,” in 2008; and her country music debut, “Some Lessons Learned,” in 2011.
“I find it sort of frustrating that ... with country music it has to be just that. That's it. That's not me. If that means I never really get accepted or played on the radio there, that's OK, but it bums me out that it's like that,” she said. “I am who I am, and there's a lot in there, a lot in this voice.”
The Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer attributes her diverse sonic palate to her suburban Tulsa upbringing.
“It's so funny when people say, ‘Who are your favorite performers?' It's Julie Andrews, Madeline Kahn and Dolly Parton and Sandi Patty, which I know is very eclectic. But that was how it was for me in Oklahoma,” she said.
In 1997, Chenoweth made her Broadway debut in Kander and Ebb's original musical “Steel Pier,” winning a Theatre World Award. She earned a Tony for her turn in the 1999 revival of “You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown” as little sister Sally Brown, a role that wasn't part of the original production. She also received a 2004 Tony nomination for originating the part of Glinda the Good Witch in “Wicked.”
Chenoweth said she enjoyed starring in Broadway revivals of “The Apple Tree” and “Promises, Promises,” too.
“I view every role I do as original. If I thought for a second about Barbara Harris playing ‘The Apple Tree' or anything I've done as a revival, I might be too intimidated. So I view them all as, ‘OK, you're putting your stamp on this,'” she said. “Of course, I love doing original work because there are no rules ... and I enjoy that aspect of creating. But I look at them both the same. If it's a revival or if it's new, I think in my mind, ‘Don't think that it's ever been done before. Do it your way.'”
Her “do-it-your-way” attitude applies to her stage and screen ventures. She and Seth MacFarlane closed last month's Academy Awards by belting a cheeky custom-written variation on Frank Sinatra's standard “Here's to the Losers,” and she plays a self-absorbed businesswoman taken hostage by her frustrated teenage daughter (Olesya Rulin) in her latest film, the outrageous comedy “Family Weekend,” which is due in theaters March 29 but already available on video on demand.
The singer/actress said in December she hopes to return to Broadway soon in a long-planned revival of “On the Twentieth Century” and a screen-to-stage adaptation of “Soapdish.”
“It's the roles that I love to play,” she said. “I'm not going to be coy about this, though. I do better ... and I love the live audience. So I probably thrive there more.”