Kristin Chenoweth casts spell in concert for Hippodrome Foundation
If you ever wondered why there's so much fuss over Kristin Chenoweth, you need only to have been at the Hippodrome Theatre Saturday night.
This stop on her first national concert tour found the physically diminutive, artistically towering singer/actress in brilliant form.
The event, a benefit for the Hippodrome Foundation's valuable education and outreach activities, drew a big, happy and clearly Chenoweth-devoted crowd.
(Not sure why Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley was wearing what appeared to be an 1812-era military uniform -- bicentennial fever? -- but he sure looked dashing.)
The Chenoweth vehicle is more a two-act show than a mere concert.
Directed by Richard Jay-Alexander, the mostly well-paced production features the star in a hefty sampling of repertoire from her career and her current country-flavored album, along with a whole lot of humor -- much of it self-deprecating ("When I was little" -- pause "--er").
Saturday's performance found Chenoweth in sterling vocal form. I was reminded more than once during the evening of ...
I was particularly taken with her eloquent delivery of the ballads on the program, among them Kander and Ebb's "My Coloring Book," the Jerome Kern classic "All the Things You Are" and Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."
Until hearing Chenoweth's haunting version, I didn't think I could ever sit through "Bring Him Home" from "Les Miserables" without gagging on its triteness. She made it sound Schubert-worthy.
(I do wish the singer had resisted the tendency to finish lyrical numbers with a crescendo to forte; a soft ending can be so much more affecting.)
Stephen Foster's "Hard Times Comes Again No More" doesn't really need the propulsive assist from Andrew Lippa's arrangement, but Chenoweth tapped the ever-resonant power of the melody and lyrics. And she sure was in her element when she jolted the house with a high-powered version of a Christian anthem, "Upon This Rock" -- after thoughtfully advising nonbelievers that it "will be over in four minutes."
Music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell did admirable playing at the piano and had the small orchestra purring nicely. (The sound system unfortunately emphasized the treble range, one area that needed no boosting with Chenoweth in the house.)
An attractive supporting trio -- Tyler Hanes, Chelsea Packard, Will Taylor -- moved seamlessly in and out of the picture to provide supple vocal, choreographic and comedic support.
Chenoweth held the Hippodrome in the palm of her hand all evening, and gave every indication that she was genuinely happy to be there -- an impromptu snippet from "Hairspray" and a mention that her adoptive mother came from Baltimore made the star seem all the more at home. If we're really, really lucky, she'll be back soon.