From the moment her iconic voice could be heard singing a gentle ballad version of “Que Sera Sera” from off-stage the audience could feel that familiar warmth of authenticity fill the entire theatre. A friend, an ally, a spiritual powerhouse of talent was about to enter. When the gorgeous 4’11” frame dressed in a navy blue sequin knee-length dress, and silver three-inch bejeweled platform heels walked into the spotlight she was greeted by thunderous applause. With every word she sang of the 1956 Doris Day hit it felt like a large invisible hand reached out and captured all 1,127 people in attendance; we gladly remained there for the duration of the evening.
Backed by a highly skilled six-piece band with the incomparable American Idol Musical director, arranger, and pianist Michael Orland at the helm. Keeping Orland on his toes each set with the variety of tunes she competently delivers; presenting him as her equal in this match of unparalleled ability. The other enviable musicians were Josh Bryant /Guitar. Eric Davis/Guitar. Justin Smith/Violin. Rich Mercurio/Drums. Brian Hamm/Bass. With her two outstanding backup singers Nikkie Kimbrough and, American Idol finalist favorite, Melinda Doolittle the band is complete.
Chenoweth presented a perfectly executed master class on how a concert show should be designed; with a patter that made the evening feel more like a cozy living room conversation. She seems to be talking to each audience member personally. A skill she must have picked up from her charming upbringing in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. She mentioned that two of her mentors are Carol Burnett and Dolly Parton. All three ladies have that comfortably likable demeanor and stage presence.
Without giving away too many of the evening’s vocal surprises Kristin made you laugh one minute and then broke your heart the next. She tossed off more than a dozen styles of music with ease and grace. The lady also has comedy chops that were quite evident in her laugh-out-loud conversations with the audience, and from the two comedy-novelty songs that she wrote which brilliantly shifted the tone of the evening: “Chick-fil-A” and “What Would Dolly Do?”. She also penned the sweet and touching ode, “Fathers and Daughters”.
A song she performed, but regrets cutting from her 2019 solo album “For The Girls” (which pays tribute to female entertainers she idolized) was a gorgeous rendition of the 1973 sentimental tune — “Yesterday Once More”; a nod to Karen Carpenter. Chenoweth, not surprisingly has those deep Carpenter low notes, too.
With girl group choreography a rhythm-n-blues style version of the 1963 Lesley Gore hit “You Don’t Own Me” would have made Etta James very proud. The girls, Kimbrough and Doolittle, joining in this anthem of feminine strength became a powerful kick-ass trio.
However, the showstopper that garnered the loudest roar of applause was her breathtakingly exquisite 1939 Yip Harburg composition “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard Of Oz. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Stepping away from the band to join Chenoweth center stage was her handsome guitar-playing husband Josh Bryant. Sitting on stools, she playfully swapped to make sure her seat was higher than his, and she lovingly sang a superbly heartfelt, “You Take My Breath Away” written by Eva Cassidy.
At one point in the show, Kristin explained how she wanted to leave her mark on the world. The Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Education Fund is committed to cultivating and celebrating young artistic expression by enriching children’s lives through the power of education, entertainment, and experience. From her music Bootcamp one of her star pupils took to the microphone. Seventeen-year-old Bella Stine sang with such understanding and depth as she broke a thousand hearts with the poignant 2009 Frank Wildhorn ballad, “Dyin Ain’t So Bad”.
Chenoweth has never shied away from expressing her religious faith, or infusing queer themes into her act; tonight was no exception. She embodies what it truly means to be a compassionate Christian who walks in the divinely guided teachings of Jesus; meaning love and kindness. No matter the denomination it doesn’t hurt to be reminded to live by this beautiful reflection of being. Her genuine caring and hope for mankind were the deeper underlying message throughout her concert. After her impressive encore, Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, the palpable smiles that could be felt resonating down the aisle, and out the doors, was proof that her message of empathy and harmony succeeded.
Whenever the Chenoweth chameleon of song is performing in your area; drop everything to see her fill an entire theatre with love. Kristin will make you laugh until you hurt, cry until you’re cleansed, and observe with open hearts until you’re kinder. She’s the petite multi-talented gift that should not be missed.
AN INTIMATE EVENING WITH KRISTIN CHENOWETH at McCallum Theatre on Friday, January 26th and Palm Desert, CA 92260 Phone: (760) 340-2787 Kristin Chenoweth on Friday, January 26, at 8:00pm, and Saturday, January 27, at 8:00pm.
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