“I’m doing this as a master class,” Kristin Chenoweth declares during For The Girls, her new and all-too-brief run of Broadway concerts currently playing at the Nederlander Theatre. She’s bringing a Glinda actress on stage for each performance — the role, of course, that Chenoweth originated in the musical Wicked — and together they run through part of the character’s signature tune, “Popular.”
She’s joking about the master class thing, but also not. In For The Girls, the show itself and the album of the same name that it promotes, the beloved Tony and Emmy winner is all about sharing the love. She lauds praise on her backup singers, her musical director, her band, the artists whose songs she covers. Even the audience gets to sing a line or two, with her encouragement.
And her efforts don’t just stop at words: Chenoweth’s guests (which vary from show to show) get their own moments to shine in a way. On the night I attended, she didn’t just do a bit of Wicked with actress Brittney Johnson — she then left for a costume change and ceded the stage to Johnson to perform her own song too. (She did Barbra Streisand’s version of “As If We Never Said Goodbye.”) Later in the night, she brought out opera singer Jamie Barton to make her Broadway debut, for which she delivered a zippy rendition of Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler’s “Alto’s Lament.” Chenoweth also give her two backup singers, Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen (another Broadway debut!), ample time of their own at center stage, and performed a number co-written by Hall and Chenoweth’s musical director, Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
So yes, the star of Wicked and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and TV’s Pushing Daisies supports and showcases her fellow artists in a way that feels sincere and not performative. But people are coming to a Kristin Chenoweth show to hear Chenoweth, and she delivers lots of her signature, versatile soprano. The 51-year-old is self-deprecating and conversational — and then when she’s not joking about being a “diva” or sipping from a giant 7-Eleven cup as she talks to the crowd, you’ll get to hear her sing plenty. She’s a good host, but she’s also the star.
There are songs that appear on the For the Girls album, like Linda Rondstant’s version of “Desperado,” Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” and an emotional, stripped down homage to Dolly Parton in the form of “I Will Always Love You.” She also paid tribute to Judy Garland, singing both “Over the Rainbow” and “The Man Who Got Away” in a pair of sparkly (and very high) red heels.
Other songs from the night included Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When,” “Yesterday Once More” by the Carpenters, and a song she co-wrote with Chely Wright for an upcoming Hallmark Christmas Movie. (There was also — in a moment that made my friend and seatmate, an Oklahoman like Chenoweth, gasp — a song by Christian singer and fellow Sooner State native Sandi Patty.)
The two-hour show (with one intermission) flies by fast, and with a set-list spanning so many different genres, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. That’s fitting for a concert where the star makes a point to include and celebrate so many others. And it makes it even more fitting that in that same spirit, during the second and finale encore, she let the audience sing the final note. A
Kristin Chenoweth: For The Girls is playing at the Nederlander Theatre through Nov. 17.