Whether from her star turn as Glinda in the hit musical “Wicked,” recurring roles on TV’s “The West Wing” and “Glee” or appearances in films like “Bewitched” and “The Pink Panther,” it’s good bet you’re familiar with Kristin Chenoweth. And you’ve marveled at her astonishingly nimble voice—technically a “coloratura soprano”—that’s able to reach tip-top notes.
From the time she was a tiny tyke in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, she’s been singing. She started with gospel in local churches, then went on to earn a master’s degree in opera performance and now belts out everything from Broadway tunes to pop and country.
On April 23 and 24, the Tony- and Emmy-winning dynamo co-stars in a world-premiere “concept opera” at Strathmore, just outside Washington, D.C.
In “I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk,” Chenoweth and Broadway stalwart Andrew Lippa play two historical activists—one fighting for women’s rights in the 17th century, the other for gay rights in the 1970s. (Lippa also wrote the words and music.)
Here, Chenoweth chats about this role, her favorite things to do in D.C. and her must-take travel items, plus a surprising hidden talent.
Why were you attracted to playing the role of Anne Hutchinson?
It is some of the most gorgeous music I’ve ever heard. It requires my skill at my top level. It will be a challenge for me, and I love her story. Andrew Lippa is a genius.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
They will come to understand her story. And that we really have to not judge others, but to love.
Is it important that this performance takes place just outside the nation’s capital?
It’s the perfect spot. I expect D.C. audiences will totally respect the idea of a concept opera.
When you visit D.C., what are some of your favorite things to do?
I love to shop. I can’t help it. I love the Capitol lawn and just walking around and looking. The Washington Monument and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum are favorites. I’ve gone [to the museum] three times. I always want to remember the mistakes we’ve made and honor the victims. I find myself in a very prayerful state when I go.
Tell us about an especially memorable moment on stage.
Well, recently on Broadway [in “On the Twentieth Century”], I sucked in a huge air ball of fog during the show and coughed up phlegm all over Andy Karl. Gross, and definitely embarrassing!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
It was such a pleasure to open the Kristin Chenoweth Theater in my hometown of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
If you had a theme song for yourself, what would it be?
“Smile” [Charlie Chaplin tune later sung by Nat King Cole]
You have many obvious talents. Do you have any hidden ones?
I can crack almost every joint in my body.
When you travel, what are some of your must-take items?
Hand sanitizer and ChapStick are musts!
If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would that be?
I would wake up in my mom and dad’s home, just chillin’ in Oklahoma. That will always be where my heart is.