Kristin Chenoweth has twice the voice of Dolly Parton (at only half the price) and she used that voice to knock the socks off her audience at the Festival Theatre in her Australian stage debut during the 2013 Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
The Tony and Emmy award-winning performer has impeccable credentials with successful stints on and off-Broadway, not to mention TV and film.
The curtain rose with the Adelaide Art Orchestra playing at their usual high standard, which they maintained throughout the course of the evening. When Chenoweth walked out, she was greeted with a rapturous applause and over the next 2 hours, she delighted and entertained the full house.
What comes across most, apart from her enormous talent, is the sense of humour and humanity she brings to each performance. Born in Oklahoma, Chenoweth is heavily involved in supporting that American state overcome its present difficulties through her charitable work. It’s the sort of philanthropy that has never really taken off in Australia but it’s exactly the sort of positive American trait we should probably learn more about as our own society is steadily Americanised.
It's clear from the outset that Chenoweth uses her talent and her shows to reveal her own personal story and her philosophy. She describes herself as a Christian who believes in equal rights for all. She tells the audience that she was adopted and grew up singing in church “I’m only 4 feet 11 but I’m going to heaven and it makes me feel 10 feet tall” and introduced a song about her Christian faith with charm and wit
“For those of you who believe in God. For those who don’t it will be over in about 4 minutes.”
A few gospel numbers appeared in her set list, as well as a song written in 1854 by Stephen Foster ('Hard Times Come Again No More') about hope from a hopeless situation – which pleased the Adelaide crowd no end.
Following interval, Chenoweth walked back on stage and declared, “I love shoes” with a picture of her shoe closet on the backdrop holding a collection that rivals Imelda Marcos. The statement was an introduction to a musical/physical comedy routine whereby an assistant changed her shoes on stage in various positions. At one point Chenoweth was upside down and quipped, “Please hurry up the Botox is falling out of my nose.”
[pull_left]Following the interval Chenoweth walked back on stage and declared, “I love shoes” with a picture of her shoe closet on the backdrop holding a collection that rivals Imelda Marcos.[/pull_left]
Despite the one-liners and the general sense of fun (or perhaps because of it) Chenoweth likes to engage her audience on an emotional level and that’s what gives the show its substance.
Chenoweth brought 3 local girls from the audience up on stage to sing 'For Good' from Wicked and also advertised the charity (ASTEP) of Mary-Mitchell Campbell, her pianist and Musical Director. But the generosity didn’t stop there. Later on Chenoweth called for Kate Ceberano and gave her the stage and a song to sing ('I Don't Know How To Love Him' from Jesus Christ Superstar).
In return, Ceberano said Chenoweth was the “living definition of abundance” and called for her to be appointed the next Artistic Director of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.
Chenoweth ended with the song 'I Was Here' and the question – how do you want to be remembered?
The encore was Parton’s 'I Will Always Love You'. There was so much love in the room – Chenoweth has a big heart and the Adelaide audience loved her in return.