Kristin Chenoweth | 01.10.09

live_chenoweth.jpgChenoweth took Foster’s sentimental 1845 popular song  through a full range of emotions, beginning as a lament, rising to a stirring anthem, then dialing back again to a display of simple, pure singing.




Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Early in her solo concert at the Fox, Kristin Chenoweth announced, "It’s not going to be stuffy." And it certainly wasn’t. Chenoweth is one of those rare performers who can be fully engaged in a song and at the same time remain sufficiently meta to comment on both the song and her performance of it. Over the course of this concert she showed her full range, from comedy to grand opera, interspersed with show-biz stories, flirtation, dancing (accompanied by two handsome and equally flirtatious young men), and political commentary.  

Chenoweth dedicated "Popular" (from the role she created in Wicked, in case you have been locked in a trunk for the past 10 years) to Rod Blagojevich, and you have to admit that the lyrics are applicable:

Whenever I see someone less fortunate than I,
And let’s face it, who isn’t less fortunate than I?
My tender heart tends to start to bleed.
And when someone needs a makeover,
I simply have to take over!
I know, I know exactly what they need!

And even in your case,
Though it’s the toughest case I’ve yet to face,
Don’t worry, I’m determined to succeed!

On a more serious note, her closing selection was an amazing arrangement of Stephen Foster’s "Hard Times Come Again No More," with explicit reference to her hopes for the upcoming Obama administration. The lyrics are startlingly appropriate:

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears,
While we all sup sorrow with the poor;
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears;
Oh, hard times come again no more.

But what really sold the song was the interpretation. Chenoweth took Foster’s sentimental 1845 popular song  through a full range of emotions, beginning as a lament, rising to a stirring anthem, then dialing back again to a display of simple, pure singing.

Did I mention her sidemen? The St. Louis Symphony, conducted by Broadway composer Andrew Lippa. In an era when touring Broadway shows use synthesizers instead of string sections, it was a rare pleasure to hear a full orchestra in the Fox. And, surprisingly enough, this marks the first time the Symphony in its entirety has played at the Fox, making the concert doubly historic, as it was also Chenoweth’s first solo show in St. Louis (she previously appeared at the Fox in the touring show of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown).

Several of Chenoweth’s selections showed her background as an opera singer (she holds a Master’s degree in opera performance), and she worked it into one of her between-numbers segments, as well. Apparently, she was auditioning for Smokey Joe’s Café, a revue based on the songs of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and nerves caused to revert to her previous training. The result was a distinctly operatic rendition of "Great Balls of Fire" which, needless to say, did not get her the part.

This concert was a succession of highlights with no weak links, so it’s difficult to single out specific songs for mention. But it would be hard for anything to top her delivery of "Taylor the Latte Boy" by Zina Goldrich and Marcy Heisler (authors of the musical Junie B. Jones, among other things). It’s a story song which tells of a romance for our times, carried out at the local coffee shop and expressed in terms familiar to the Starbucks generation:

And he smoothly flipped the lever to prepare my double latte,
But for me he made it triple! And he didn’t think I knew
But I saw him flip the lever, and for me he made it triple,
And I knew that triple latte meant that Taylor loved me too!

Chenoweth’s delivery of this song is simultaneously absolutely serious and absolutely ironic, which is absolutely appropriate to the young lovers described. If you missed this concert and would like to hear the song, it will be featured in the upcoming concerts by the Gateway Men’s Chorus, March 27-28 at Forest Park Community College. | Sarah Boslaugh

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