Fans of Kristin Chenoweth who know her from television, Broadway and recordings had the chance to see and adore her at her concert performance at New York City Center (June 2, 2012), part of her current extensive tour. With her soaring voice and personality to match, Chenoweth unleashed a wide range of songs, abetted by assists from three featured performers and an orchestra with assorted arrangements geared to her showy style emphasizing the mighty vocals that emanate from this dynamo, short in height but tall in talent.
An opening montage of visual clips was a litmus test for those in the audience to react to Chenoweth performances they knew best, as evidenced by applause of recognition. Her resumé thus firmly established, she then walked on stage to the expected standing ovation. And that was before she even had sung a note.
Chenoweth quickly delivered. She performed a cutesy dance number accompanied by Tyler Hanes and Will Taylor in a cowboy-looking mode. They and Chelsea Packard assisted at assorted points throughout, including a puppet routine geared to the show “Avenue Q.”
Chenoweth’s method in the touring concert, directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, with Hanes doing the choreography and Mary-Mitchel Campbell handling arrangements and musical direction, is to mix her audience-friendly chatter of comic lines and anecdotes with a wide array of songs. Her choices tap into the familiarity with the shows for which she is known. The program is also partly geared to her new album “Some Lessons Learned.”
She reaches emotional heights with such choices as “Maybe This Time,” “All the Things You Are,” “Bring Him Home.” and “I Will Always Love You.” Her sense of fun emerges when she playfully indulges in different languages performing “Popular,” with which she is identified, thanks to being renowned for “Wicked.” There is delicacy in her rendering of “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a not very well known 19th century song by Stephen Foster.
Chenoworth’s acting and musical comedy gifts merge as she slumps through “I’m Tired,” in a mock Marlene Dietrich style. Of course, Chenoweth also demonstrates her glittering voice time and again as it reaches high on the scale. Nothing is better suited to the purpose then her wildly performed “Glitter and Be Gay” from “Candide.” I had seen her do his before in a concert staging of “Candide.” Here she has her two male assistants serve her an array of jewelry that she accumulates as props while her voice dazzles reaching for the heights and she triumphantly swings around a necklace of gems. It is a showpiece guaranteed to impress, and justly so.
The star uses a film clip of Dolly Parton to seemingly hold a conversation with her. It’s a slick bit, but it doesn’t serve much purpose other than to point to the possibility of her playing Parton one day. There are also gambits in the show that may do better with audiences than with critics. Her assistants at one point charge into the aisles trying to whip the audience into a spirit of joining in. Chenoweth also appeared to get quite emotional at one point in talking about causes and topics that mean much to her. The effect can be cloying, but she connects with her audience.
Although that sort of involvement is a part of the effervescent Chenoweth personality, she does best when she lets her talent do her talking. One number like “Glitter and Be Gay” says it all. At New York City Center, 121 W. 55th Street.