Kristin Chenoweth, Royal Albert Hall ✭✭✭✭✭
Reviewed by Mark Ludmon
It is third time lucky for Kristin Chenoweth. She was originally due to play the Royal Albert Hall two years ago but suffered a head injury on the set of The Good Wife. A year later, a second attempt was cancelled because of a mix-up over work permits. After finally making it to the stage on Saturday (July 12), she was clearly emotional that a girl from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, was now playing the Royal Albert Hall. As she said towards the end of her show: “It’s nights like this when I’m grateful I survived being hit in the head.”
Her fans were certainly grateful that she made it. Although well-known in the US since she starred in her own TV comedy series 13 years ago, she is best known in the UK for her guest appearances in Glee, starring in fantasy TV drama Pushing Daisies and originating the role of good witch Glinda in the global musical hit Wicked. Pointing out it was 10 years since she left the Broadway show, she treated us to two of its songs: “Popular”, with some lines translated into other languages in tribute to the many foreign stage productions, and “For Good”, which, in a surprise that sent Wicked fans wild, Kristin sang with star guest Kerry Ellis, who was the first to play the show’s other lead role of Elphaba in London. In one of the many references to her childhood, Kristin – dressed in a glittering white gown – also gave us a touching “Over the Rainbow” which she often sang as a little girl. “Oz has been a part of my life for a while,” she noted.
The other big guest of the night was Alison Jiear who joined Kristin in an energetic disco duet of “Enough Is Enough (No More Tears )”, originally a hit for Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand.
Kristin told us she fell in love with Alison’s voice after hearing her on the cast recording of Jerry Springer The Opera although it is hard to imagine a nice Oklahoma girl like her singing along to Alison’s best-known track, “I don’t give a f*** no more if people think I am a whore”.
The rigorous Christian politeness of the US Bible Belt provided plenty of laughs, including a performance of a bowdlerised version of “Dance Ten, Looks Three” from an Oklahoma production of A Chorus Line with the key line, “tits and ass”, changed to “boobs and butt”.
The show featured plenty of other hits from the musicals, from Cabaret’s “Maybe This Time” to Les Miserables’ “Bring Him Home” – both pared back for emotional depth rather than belted out for effect. We also got tunes such as “My Lord and Master”, which Kristin sang in a 1991 production of The King and I in Kansas, and “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” from Phantom of the Opera. She duetted with another US musical theatre actor, Peter Lockyer, in the mash-up of “A House Is Not A Home”, from her last Broadway show Promises, Promises, and “One Less Bell To Answer” that had been another Streisand song and was a track Kristin sang with Matthew Morrison in Glee.
We also got some of her own songs such as her Country hit “What Would Dolly Do” – a tribute to Dolly Parton – which she followed up with the Country star’s beautiful “Little Sparrow”. The eclectic playlist also included Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are”, Kander & Ebb’s “My Colouring Book”, and a rousing arrangement of Stephen Foster’s 1853 song “Hard Times Come Again No More” that sounded like it could have been written today. Kristin ended her show with another pared-back classic that showcased the purity of her soprano voice, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. From the cries of “We love you” from the audience, the feeling was clearly reciprocated.