PARK CITY — She sparkles. She glitters. She glows. She’s Kristin Chenoweth!
Seeing the vivacious performer in an intimate concert setting is a wholly unique experience. At the Eccles Theatre on New Year’s Eve, Chenoweth enchanted the sold-out auditorium in a special benefit fundraiser for the Park City Performing Arts Foundation.
While she may not be a household name, when the golden-throated Chenoweth is mentioned among even casual Broadway theatergoers there is a hushed reverence. Any audience member who may not have been familiar with her singing quickly became a fan.
Chenoweth’s opening number, “Should I Be Sweet?” was a wonderful introduction to her charismatic personality that includes a saucy sweetness. It also highlighted her classical vocal training and her bright and beautiful legit-belt voice. When the breakout song from the 1932 Broadway musical “Take a Chance” is combined with “The Girl in 14G,” written for her to premiere, there’s a clear demonstration that comedic story songs are her forte.
Two additional comedy songs — “Taylor, the Latte Boy,” about a woman with a crush on her local Starbucks barista, and “Popular” from “Wicked” — cemented that reputation. Yet Chenoweth is not content to rely on a sing-through of her Broadway repertoire. After “Popular,” the only other song from her hit musical was “For Good,” and she invited two young volunteers, Hanna and Jolene, to join her on stage to sing the song with her.
Another bit of audience participation included asking for a cell phone to text a message to her beau as an introduction to “Vanilla Ice Cream,” from the Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical “She Loves Me.”
However, Don Henley’s “The Heart of the Matter,” a selection she decided to perform after the tragic shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Andrew Lippa’s “Love Somebody Now” took her in a more soft and passionate, dramatic direction.
Chenoweth performed a sensational version of “Bring Him Home” from “Les Miserables” (which she joked that her mother calls “The Misfits”). Tearing up when introducing “Fathers and Daughters,” she dedicated the song to her adoptive parents. It was hard not to cry with her during the lyrics that include “you laughed and told me you really wanted a boy / You cried the first time you held me said you never felt such joy.”
Proving that she truly was enjoying her visit to Utah, Chenoweth included a shoutout to her ski instructor Kent from a previous lesson on the slopes, with a hope that she had truly earned the “most-improved” honor of her class. “I still can’t feel my thighs,” she added.
The Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress recalled the audition for a role in her Broadway premiere “Steel Pier,” which called for a tall and stately singer. The 4-foot-11 Chenoweth encouraged young artists to “follow your heart.” She then sang a memorable “Maybe This Time,” written by the “Steel Pier” composers John Kander and Fred Ebb.
Mary Mitchell Campbell, the singer’s longtime musical director, was Chenoweth’s expert onstage pianist and occasional duet partner.
While still recovering from a litany of head and body injuries sustained on the set of TV’s “The Good Wife,” Chenoweth has returned to her full strength and is more than capable of effortlessly stealing audience’s hearts as a soloist.