Our (first) exclusive Interview with Kristin ChenowethI recently had the opportunity to talk to Kristin and ask her a few questions exclusively for our website - for fans, from a fan! My goal with this interview was to ask some questions Kristin doesn't get asked very often, and skip all the ones she has answered many times. I hope you enjoy reading this! If you follow us on social media, please share your thoughts!
Kchenoweth.net (KCnet): Hi Kristin. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview!
Kristin: Of course. Iím glad itís happening.
KCnet: I want to start with something you have coming up next year that Iím personally extremely excited about. I Am Anne Hutchinson. I know that Andrew Lippa wrote it for you, and he also wrote the soprano part in I Am Harvey Milk for you. But can you tell us a little more about Anne Hutchinson, and when you first heard about it?
Kristin: Yes, thank you for asking about this. First of all, let me just say that it was a real heart-breaker when I didnít get to the original I Am Harvey Milk because of scheduling. Everybody that knows me knows how I feel about Lippa. And to be honest with you, he knows my voice and my, and know, me so well. So, itís a composer Ė artist relationship that will be there till we die, you know. It is what it is. He brought up Anne Hutchinson to me probably a year and a half ago and told me about her journey, gosh, now itís been a long time (ago that she lived). What I like about Anne Hutchinson and who she was, and I donít wanna give away too much, just because I want people to understand, I want them to come and watch it, you know? But basically, she was tortured and tormented for her believes and then was blamed for being a part of witchcraft, which she was not, and then she was killed. What I think is really special about (Lippa) having her as a prequel to Harvey Milk is just showing us that as far as weíve come, we still have far to go. I think back when this happened, and then we have Harvey Milk, and we have people that die every day for who they are and how they were born. And weíve gotten them together. It is operatic in tone and it is oratorial and I'm actually learning the music now because I really want it to be set in my voice when we do it. Gosh Iím trying to remember the exact date.
KCnet: Itís the end of April. (Note: April 23 & 24 to be precise)
Kristin: This is a big deal for me. And for Andrew. It makes the Harvey Milk, to me, seem more full circle. For Anne being a woman, and what we had to deal with, you know what I mean? Weíve come so far, but we still havenít had a woman president, we still have things we need to do as women. Weíre not being paid the same as men, so still some more to do. But Anne was at the beginning, or not even the beginning, but just a long line of legends maybe a lot of people donít know about. And thatís why Iím glad we will be able to introduce her to the world in conjunction with Harvey Milk.
KCnet: Because you brought up women in general, I want to continue with that. Can you talk a little bit about the expectations of actresses in the entertainment industry, and specifically in Hollywood? How that has influenced your life? And has your willingness to go along with that expectation might have changed over the years?
Kristin: Gosh, you know, I have to tell you this. I learned so much over the years. And what Iíve mainly learnedÖ Jennifer Lawrence took a little bit of a wrap for bringing up, you know, what the men made. I think itís still a menís world. And I think there is a lot of men who respect women and understand we deserve the same as men.
I think that the Hollywood expectation is impossible..., impossible to succeed at what the expectations are. I think what I have to remember is taking roles and why. Not ever how itís gonna work. You know, I played younger people than me, I played older people than me. Iím lucky that Iíve been able to not be typecast, but there is that going on in general with actors. And then with women, that we have to be this perfect image. And as we get older itís like weíre gonna hang on until we canít hang on anymore. I think that aging gracefully, there is a lot to be said for it. I mean, Iím not going to say that Iím not trying every day to look my best, but thatís not perfection. Perfection doesnít exist. And all the young girls who look into the magazines, which I have been a part of even, on a much smaller scale then some of the really, really famous people, they are trying to achieve a dream that doesnít exist. Nobody can tell them that. They have to experience it and learn it on their own. And I have gotten there, Iíve definitely gotten there. I love to look pretty, I love clothes and fashion and jewelry. I love hair and makeup and all that stuff but I also know that I cannot... defy age. I just canít. And in some ways I feel like in my forties Iíve been better than Iíve ever been. And I think when you start to get to that point you understand that looks are just part of it, really. And taking care of the inside, thatís a battle we all have. We have to take care of ourselves. Spiritually, emotionally and physically.
I guess my main thing is, donít try to achieve perfection because it doesnít exist. Itís not real.
KCnet: You mentioned that itís a world thatís still mainly run by men. In business situations, but also in life in general, what do you do to get taken seriously, how do you command respect?
Kristin: I think itís really important for women to know what they have to offer, know what their, I guess strengths are, and lead with that. I think if we lead with our body it always ends badly, you know what I mean? Lead with your brain, your talent, your god-given gift. And I think youíll find that longevity is achieved. Thatís what I want in this career, itís longevity. I wanna be able to have. Look at Barbara Cook, look at Barbra Streisand, look at Sandi Patti. These people are still singing, and amazingly well. They take care of themselves, they learn from their mistakes and they keep singing to grow and still work at it. They lead with that, in other words. Look at Adele. Sheís a beautiful woman, but I donít think sheís leading with her beauty, sheís like ďThis is my talent, this is my gift, and thatís what Iím gonna go with.Ē So if itís math or science or history or entertainment, I think itís more important to honestly lead with your brain, not your body. Your bodyís gonna go away.
KCnet: You have mentioned in recent years that youíre interested in different aspects of the business, other than performing. You wrote a few songs for Some Lessons Learned, youíve mentioned writing a movie musical, youíve produced a few things. What is it that interests you about these things? Can we expect you to write or produce more things for yourself perhaps?
Kristin: I think for meÖ yes is the answer. Iím always looking to be inspired and frankly, Iím inspired a lot. I look around, I watch things on TV that inspire me, I listen to music that inspires me. I like stories. I canít wait for that movie, Joy, thatís coming out.
KCnet: Iím looking forward to that, too.
Kristin: Thatís a good example of what Iím talking about. That inspires me. Adele inspires me, her story. I mean, her voice is what it is, itís amazing. But itís her story. I think Iím looking for a good story to tell. And sometimes the truth is the best story. Iím doing a little bit of writing and start talking about the beginning of how it all kind of started for me. Will it actually turn into something? I have no idea. But an example of I Am Harvey Milk / I Am Anne Hutchinson, itís that kinda thing thatís now striking me, that I want to tell the story. I am attached to Tammy Faye Baker - The Musical and Soapdish. These are reallyÖ Soapdish is just fun. Anything that people can check out and say "That itís worth the price of the ticket, that took me to another place, it made me forget about my own life.Ē or ďIt really helped with me with my own life with these hilarities and how that person overcame (the challenges). So yeah, I like the idea of (creating). Certainly I donít want to be the boss of everything but I want to able to have a say in what Iím doing in my life. Does that make sense? Always before in my shows I never had any part in creating from the very beginning. And I look at someone like Winnie Holzmann, for example, who was our bookwriter on Wicked. Thatís a strong-ass woman who wrote one of the best books for a musical, ever. And I know it wasnít an easy road, but she kept at it. She kept at it, and I think the tenacity equals longevity. And I will look for those stories until the day I die.
And as far as music goes, as you know Iím always changing my shows, itís never the same twice. Even if itís the same music, itís never done the same. Ella Fitzgerald used to say ďI hate singing the same song over and over in the same wayĒ, and I really can relate to that because thatís not me either. Music should always come from a real place. Youíve heard me say it a thousand times. We sing because we canít speak it. And sometimes that song or that move is in a different place then before. That is why I get so much gratification out of these concerts: Because not every night is the same, not every audience in the same, songs shift in an out. And as an artist, it gives me the greatest pleasure. Itís probably what makes me the happiest.
KCnet: You briefly mentioned Soapdish and Tammy Faye Baker. With your busy schedule, how much are you involved in the development of these shows? Will you have the chance to do the workshops, possibly do an out-of-town tryout?
Kristin: Well, for sure Iím being allowed, Iím being invited to have input. And I think thatís obviously important when youíre inhabiting someone, especially when itís someone the public thinks they know. The important thing with Tammy Faye for me is to play the person, not the persona. And thatís been my biggest challenge. And yes, we will be doing a workshop probably in the spring. And as far as going out of town, Iím not sure about it. Once we do the workshop we kinda know where we stand, and how much time we need to work it (out). Sometimes people want to work that out out of town, sometimes people want to work it in the safety of a rehearsal room, and do another, and another, and another workshop. A lot will be able to be told to me (once weíve done the workshop). Iíve already done one, very very quietly. Weíre doing another in the spring and then weíll go from there.
KCnet: Iím really looking forward to that.
Thank you. I loved her, and love her today even still. And Iím looking forward to telling her story, not necessarily from what people would think itís from. There is the persona of her, and then there is the person.
KCnet: As far as concerts go, I was wondering if a cabaret at a venue like 54 Below or Cafe Carlyle is something that you would be interested in doing? Say, "Chenoweth sings Lippa", with him at the piano?
Kristin: I certainly love doing just piano-vocal concerts. You know, Mary Mitchell Campbell, it doesnít get better than that. And we have these shows. We did one in Kansas, there is an upcoming one in January. I think for me the next year will be really continuing to do these bigger halls, and then getting back on Broadway. And then after that, you know, Iíll kind of think about it. Certainly, do I see that in my future? For sure! Because itís intimate, itís kinda how it started for me, to be honest with you. So, itís always there. Itís always like being home; itís like being in your living room. My goal has been with these audiences to make them feel like they are in my living room. And thatís the biggest challenge and the most fun about it.
KCnet: To wrap it up, a bit more of a fun question. If you could dream-cast a writer/composer/lyricist team to write a Broadway musical for you, who would it be, and what would the show be about?
Kristin: Oh goodness. Thatís a good one, Iím impressed. Hmm. Obviously Iím gonna go with Andrew Lippa. I think it would be nice to team up with Winnie again. I think Iíve been lucky with directors in my life. Iíve had some great guys, some wonderful guys. It would be impossible for me to say. I would want it to be about a strong woman, whoís come from a hard life and made it. Thatís the story we hear a lot, right? But thereís a reason we hear that because itís inspirational. I would love to talk about Carol Burnett, obviously Dolly, Iíve even thought about Madeline Kahnís story and what was that. That was an interesting lady, too. And then I think maybe my own, you know. We go back to that. So, who knows. Something in that vein though. And obviously it needs to be funny. But I also like to have the real parts of life. Iíve played roles that have had both, Iíve played roles that leaned more towards drama, and have played roles that leaned more towards comedy. I think of the genius that was Pushing Daisies.
Kristin: Oh, by the way, I would love to have Bryan (Fuller) write anything for me: stage, movie or TV show. Bryan Fuller nailed it with that show and especially Olive Snook.
KCnet: Alright. I donít want to keep you any longer. Thanks so much again for taking the time. Happy Holidays!
Kristin: You, too. Bye bye.