Kristin Chenoweth (born on July 24, 1968) is an American actress and singer, with credits in musical theatre, film and television. In 1999, she won a Tony Award for her performance as Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway. In 2003, she received wide notice for originating the role of Glinda in the musical Wicked, including a nomination for another Tony. Her television roles have included Annabeth Schott in NBC's The West Wing and Olive Snook on the ABC comedy-drama Pushing Daisies, for which she won a 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Chenoweth also starred in the ABC TV series GCB in 2012.
Chenoweth sang gospel music as a child in Oklahoma and studied opera before deciding to pursue a career in musical theatre. In 1997, she made her Broadway debut in Steel Pier, winning a Theatre World Award. Besides You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked, Chenoweth's stage work includes five City Center Encores! productions, Broadway's The Apple Tree in 2006, Promises, Promises in 2010 and On the Twentieth Century in 2015, as well as Off-Broadway and regional theatre productions.
Chenoweth had her own TV series Kristin in 2001, and has guest starred on many shows, including Sesame Street and Glee, for which she was nominated for Emmy Awards in 2010 and 2011. In films, she has played mostly character roles, such as in Bewitched (2005), The Pink Panther (2006) and RV (2006). She has played roles in made-for-TV movies, such as Descendants (2015); done voice work in animated films such as Rio 2 (2014) and the animated TV series Sit Down, Shut Up; hosted several award shows; and released several albums of songs, including A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas (2008), Some Lessons Learned (2011) and Coming Home (2014). Chenoweth also penned a 2009 memoir, A Little Bit Wicked.
Chenoweth was adopted when she was five days old by Junie Smith Chenoweth and Jerry Morris Chenoweth of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, a suburb of Tulsa, and named Kristi Dawn Chenoweth. She has stated that she is of one quarter Cherokee ancestry. At an early age, she performed gospel songs for local churches. A performing highlight of her childhood was a solo appearance at the Southern Baptist Convention national conference at the age of 12, where she performed the Evie song "Four Feet Eleven". The chorus begins, "I'm only 4 feet 11, but I'm going to Heaven" (Chenoweth is 4 ft 11 in (150 cm) in height). After graduating from Broken Arrow Senior High School, where she participated in school plays, Chenoweth attended Oklahoma City University, where she was a member of Gamma Phi Beta (Beta Omicron) sorority. She earned a Bachelor's degree in musical theatre in 1990 and a master's degree in opera performance in 1992, studying under voice instructor and mentor, Florence Birdwell. While at OCU, Chenoweth competed in beauty pageants, winning the title of "Miss OCU" and was the second runner-up in the Miss Oklahoma pageant in 1991. In 1992, Chenoweth participated in a studio recording of The Most Happy Fella.
While she was in college and working towards her masters, Chenoweth performed at the Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City, among other regional theatres, in roles like June in Gypsy, Liesl in The Sound of Music, Fran in Promises, Promises and Tuptim in The King and I. As she completed her Masters degree, Chenoweth participated in a number of vocal competitions and was named "most promising up-and-coming singer" in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, which came with a full scholarship to Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts. Two weeks before school started, however, she went to New York City to help a friend move. While there, she auditioned for the 1993 Paper Mill Playhouse production of the musical Animal Crackers and got the role of Arabella Rittenhouse. She turned down the scholarship and moved to New York to do the show and pursue a career in musical theatre.
After Animal Crackers, Chenoweth continued to appear in regional theatre productions, such as Babes in Arms at The Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and Phantom (as Christine; also touring in Germany in this role), also taking roles in Off-Broadway productions like Luisa in The Fantasticks, and Kristy in Box Office of the Damned (both in 1994). In 1997, she appeared as Hyacinth in the Roundabout Theater Company production of Moliere's farcical Scapin, earning her first New York Times review, with Ben Brantley writing "Kristin Chenoweth's sob-prone ingenue ... delightful". She made her Broadway debut in the spring of 1997 as Precious McGuire in the musical Steel Pier by Kander and Ebb, for which she won a Theatre World Award. In 1998 she appeared in the City Center Encores! staged concert of the George and Ira Gershwin musical Strike up the Band as Anne Draper and the Lincoln Center Theater production of William Finn's A New Brain. Ben Rimalower, in Playbill, wrote: "It's unlikely anyone will equal Kristin Chenoweth in the role of 'Nancy D., the waitress.'"
In 1999, Chenoweth performed in the Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown as the title character's little sister, Sally, a character that was not present in the original production. She won the Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. Later that year, she starred on Broadway in the short-lived comic play Epic Proportions, followed by starring as Daisy Gamble in the "Encores!" production of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever in February 2000.
After this, Chenoweth split her time between stage and TV or film roles and released her first solo album, Let Yourself Go (2001). In 2002, she performed in the City Center Encores! 10th Anniversary Bash. In October 2003, she returned to Broadway (after the San Francisco tryout) in Wicked, the musical about the early years of the witches of Oz, in the joint-leading role of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. She was nominated for a 2004 Tony Award as Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance, losing to her co-star Idina Menzel (who played Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West). Chenoweth was also nominated for the Drama Desk Award and the Drama League Award for this role. Ben Rimalower, in Playbill, wrote that, for Glinda, "the gold standard was unquestionably and indelibly set" by Chenoweth's performances. After playing Glinda for nine months, Chenoweth left Wicked, on July 18, 2004, soon joining the cast of The West Wing in Los Angeles. The Wicked cast album earned a 2005 Grammy Award.
Chenoweth played Cunegonde in the New York Philharmonic revival of Candide, directed by Lonny Price, in May 2004. The production was also broadcast on PBS's Great Performances. A performance of the rarely sung duet "We Are Women", between Cunegonde and the Old Lady (played by Patti Lupone), was included in the production.
From December 2006 to March 2007, Chenoweth starred on Broadway as Eve in a revival of The Apple Tree with co-stars Brian d'Arcy James and former fiancé Marc Kudisch. She received nominations for the Drama Desk Award and the Drama League Award. She hosted that year's Drama Desk Awards ceremony. She played Elizabeth in a 2006 workshop of Mel Brooks's musical theatre adaptation of his film Young Frankenstein, but due to other commitments, she was unable to appear in the Broadway production. In 2008 she was scheduled to reprise her role as Cunegonde in an English National Opera production of Candide, but she had to pull out. She appeared in the Encores! semi-staged production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Music in the Air in February 2009. Chenoweth was scheduled to return to The Metropolitan Opera in 2010 to play Samira in John Corigliano's opera The Ghosts of Versailles. The Met cancelled the expensive production in 2008 as the U.S. economy weakened.
Chenoweth starred as Fran Kubelik in the 2010 Broadway revival of the musical Promises, Promises, opposite Sean Hayes, which opened on April 25, 2010. The songs "I Say a Little Prayer" and "A House Is Not a Home" were added for her to sing. Chenoweth and Hayes remained in the cast until the show closed on January 2, 2011, although she missed performances from December 29, 2010 to January 1, 2011 to perform a New Year's Eve concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall on December 31, 2010. She played televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker in a reading of the musical Rise in 2011.
Chenoweth is playing Lily Garland in a Broadway revival of On the Twentieth Century, opposite Peter Gallagher, which began previews on February 12 and opened on March 12, 2015 for a 22-week limited engagement through July 19, 2015 at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Ben Brantley of The New York Times wrote that Chenoweth "uses histrionics to create one of the most virtuosic portraits in song ever on Broadway. The vocal vocabulary she deploys here ranges from jazz-baby brass to operatic silver, often in a single number, and she switches among them with jaw-dropping ease. ... And every perfectly weighted note is set off by an impeccably exaggerated gesture." She was nominated for a Tony Award and won a Drama Desk Award for her performance.
After a guest appearance on LateLine, a role in the short-lived television series Paramour (1999) and several roles in television films such as Annie (as Lily St. Regis), Chenoweth starred in her own NBC sitcom, the semi-autobiographical Kristin in 2001. It was short-lived, with thirteen episodes filmed, but only six aired before it was cancelled. Chenoweth appeared in the lead role of Marian in the 2003 television film, The Music Man, opposite Matthew Broderick. She also guest-starred on such shows as Frasier (2001), Sesame Street (2002 and several times afterwards) and Ugly Betty (2007).
In 2004, Chenoweth began playing the recurring role of media consultant Annabeth Schott in The West Wing. For her performance, she was nominated twice, along with the cast, for a Screen Actors Guild Award. She appeared in the final two seasons of the program, through 2006. Chenoweth had been considered originally for the role of Ainsley Hayes, but she had already accepted her role in Wicked.
From 2007 to 2009, Chenoweth played Olive Snook in the television series Pushing Daisies. For her performance she received critical acclaim and was nominated two years in a row for an Emmy Award, winning in 2009 as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. The series was canceled after two seasons. In 2009, Chenoweth lent her voice to the animated comedy series Sit Down, Shut Up as Miracle Grohe, a science teacher who does not believe in science. The series lasted just thirteen episodes. Later that year, Chenoweth began a recurring role as April Rhodes in Glee, singing several songs, earning enthusiastic notices. The character is a former member of the glee club who never finished high school and ended up hitting rock bottom. A review in USA Today observed, "Her presence may not make much sense, but it means hearing Chenoweth sing, we can put up with any explanation the show cares to offer." She received a Satellite Award for Outstanding Guest Star.
In April 2010, Chenoweth returned to Glee as April Rhodes, singing more songs. The Los Angeles Times review commented, "the best part about 'Home' was undoubtedly the return of Kristin Chenoweth as April. ... From her spunky duet of 'Fire' with Schue, to the heart-achingly lonely coo of 'One Less Bell to Answer' which segued into a fantastic reprise of 'A House Is Not a Home' and of course her bone-chilling take on 'Home' ... I fell in love with her again." She was nominated for both 2010 and 2011 Emmy Awards for her performances on Glee. Chenoweth returned to Glee in "Rumours" in 2011, and for its 100th episode in March 2014. In 2011, Chenoweth joined the cast of a pilot for ABC called Good Christian Bitches as a character named Carlene Cockburn. ABC picked up the show and changed the title to GCB. The series debuted in March 2012 but lasted only one season; Chenoweth generally sang a song in each episode. Chenoweth guest starred in an episode of the sitcom Hot in Cleveland, titled "The Gateway Friend", on May 2, 2012.
Chenoweth was cast in a recurring role as a political reporter in the fourth season of The Good Wife (2012). However, on July 11, 2012 she left the show because of serious injuries suffered on the set, where she sustained a skull fracture, broken nose, spinal and rib injuries and cracked teeth. Her character appears in the September 2012 season opener. During that month, she returned to the show to film a short scene for another episode. In 2013 and 2014, she made two appearances as Brittany Gold on the TV series, Kirstie.
Chenoweth played Maleficent in the live-action Disney Channel original movie, Descendants, which premiered on July 31, 2015. The Entertainment Weekly reviewer said that "Chenoweth stole much of the show". It drew the largest cable TV movie audience of 2015 to that date.
Chenoweth made her film debut in Topa Topa Bluffs in 2002 playing "Patty". After a few years away from film she returned to the big screen in the 2005 film version of Bewitched, directed by Nora Ephron, as Maria Kelly. In 2006, Chenoweth played supporting roles in five films, The Pink Panther, RV, Running with Scissors, Deck the Halls, and Stranger Than Fiction.
On February 24, 2008, Chenoweth sang "That's How You Know" from the film Enchanted at the 80th Academy Awards in the Kodak Theater. She also voiced Rosetta, the garden fairy in the 2008 animated film Tinker Bell. Later that year, Chenoweth appeared in the 2008 holiday romantic comedy film Four Christmases, playing the sister of Reese Witherspoon's character.
In 2009, Chenoweth starred as a "suicidal prostitute" in the indie drama Into Temptation, written and directed by Patrick Coyle. The film was screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival and was later released on DVD. Also in 2009, Chenoweth reprised her voice role of Rosetta in Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure and filmed the Disney comedy You Again (released in 2010). She voiced Gabi, a poisonous frog, in the 2014 animated film, Rio 2. In 2015, she appeared with Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Guzman in the thriller film The Boy Next Door and voiced Snoopy's love interest in The Peanuts Movie.
Chenoweth often appeared on Prairie Home Companion. On August 27, 2008, Chenoweth released an internet video with Funny or Die called Intervention with Kristin Chenoweth. The video parodied A&E's show Intervention, with Chenoweth starring as a singing, dancing interventionist. The song in the video was composed by Andrew Lippa, with lyrics by Amy Rhodes, who also wrote the script for the video. Chenoweth admitted that she was hesitant about performing the lyrics.
In 2010, she appeared in a three-minute video short for Glamour Magazine entitled "iPad or Bust". She posed for the cover and a photo spread in the March 2006 edition of FHM magazine. In 2011, Chenoweth released her first televised music video on Country Music Television, directed by Roman White, "I Want Somebody". The video for the single peaked at #19 on CMT's Top Twenty Countdown.
Recordings and concerts
Chenoweth at the Oxford Union, 2009 Chenoweth has a distinctive speaking voice, one she has compared to that of Betty Boop. She is a classically trained coloratura soprano, able to sing the note "F6" (also known as "F above High C").
Among other early recordings, Chenoweth participated in a studio cast recording of The Most Happy Fella in 1992. She was also in the cast recordings of A New Brain (1998) and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (1999) and a studio cast recording of 110 in the Shade (1999). In 2000, she was featured on the album Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino. The next year, with Mandy Patinkin, she was featured on the album entitled "Kidults". Also in 2001, she released her debut solo album Let Yourself Go, which was a collection of standards from the musicals of the 1930s. One of the tracks featured a duet with Jason Alexander. In October 2002, Chenoweth performed songs from the album in concert for Lincoln Center's American Songbook concert series. Ben Rimalower, in Playbill, praised the album as "a joyous affair". The same year, she appeared as Fanny Brice in the Actor's Fund Benefit Concert of the musical Funny Girl in New York City. In 2003 in London, she performed a solo concert as part of the Divas at the Donmar series for director Sam Mendes. Later that year, she sang Glinda in the cast recording of Wicked and the soundtrack recording of Disney's The Music Man. Rimalower wrote that Chenoweth "sparkles" on the album. In 2004, she released her second album As I Am, which was a Christian music album containing various spiritual songs. The album peaked at number 31 on the U.S. Christian Albums Chart. The same year, Chenoweth gave a concert at Carnegie Hall.
On January 19, 2007, Chenoweth performed a solo concert at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, only the third musical theatre star ever to present a solo concert at that location, following Barbara Cook and Yves Montand. The same year, she was featured in songs with Nathan Gunn on an album entitled Just Before Sunrise. The next year, she released her third solo studio album, entitled A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas. The album included a duet with John Pizzarelli and there are several modern holiday tunes, but many traditional carols as well including The Lord's Prayer. This album has been her best seller, reaching number 77 on the U.S. Billboard Albums Chart, climbing to number 7 on the U.S. Holiday Albums chart and to number 1 on the U.S. Heatseekers Chart. Ben Rimalower, in Playbill, observed that the album "proved an ideal showcase for many gifts". Among many other solo concerts around the U.S., Chenoweth performed her own concert in 2009 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, at the Fox Theatre.
In August 2010, during her nights off from Promises, Promises, Chenoweth recorded her fourth album, a country pop CD entitled Some Lessons Learned. Released on September 13, 2011, the album contains songs by Diane Warren, Dolly Parton and Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, among others. Chenoweth co-wrote two of the songs. One of the singles released in advance of the album was "I Want Somebody (Bitch About)". Ben Rimalower, writing in Playbill, thought that the album "may be most accomplished". From the TV show GCB, in 2012, Chenoweth released "Blessed Be the Ties that Bind", "Jesus Take the Wheel", "Prayer of St. Francis" (which was also on Some Lessons Learned) and "This Little Light of Mine". Chenoweth conducted her first U.S. concert tour in the summer of 2012. The reviewer for BroadwayWorld.com wrote: "Kristin shines on stage."
Less than four months after her July 2012 injury on the set of The Good Wife, Chenoweth returned to the concert stage for a short series of dates in California, where she performed "a sagely programmed 90-minute set, which merged pop, Broadway, gospel and country with perky, unforced-feeling remarks. ... Chenoweth’s range, timbre and versatility are in peak form, with astonishing top notes, equalized registers and a delicious ability to variegate attack from number to number." In 2013, Chenoweth performed at the Sydney Opera House as part of an Australian concert tour. In 2014, Chenoweth returned to Carnegie hall with an autobiographical concert, where she sang "as good a rendition of 'Much More' as we're ever likely to hear". She also made her London solo concert debut at the Royal Albert Hall, where a reviewer's five-star review noted: "Chenoweth undeniably knows how to engulf a venue, not only with her (sometimes surprisingly) powerful, operatic voice ... but also with her irresistable ... personality ... that audience was in the palm of her hands for the duration of the evening". She joined Andrew Lippa in his oratorio I Am Harvey Milk at Avery Fisher Hall on October 6, 2014.
Chenoweth has signed with Concord Music Group and released an album entitled Coming Home, on November 17, 2014. The album charted at No. 48 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Special events and appearances Chenoweth and the cast of the Broadway musical Wicked performed the song "One Short Day" in the 2003 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In the 2005 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Chenoweth performed the song "Oklahoma" while riding aboard the "Oklahoma Rising" float. The float was making the first of three annual appearances commemorating the state of Oklahoma's statehood centennial in 2007. She was the star performer of the opening ceremony of the 2007 Tournament of Roses Parade. She sang "Our Good Nature", an original composition written to coincide with the Oklahoma centennial celebration and the theme of the parade. In the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, she performed the song "The Christmas Waltz" from her "A Lovely Way to Spend Christmas" album while riding aboard the "The Care Bears Winter Fun-Derland" float.
She sang with Il Divo as part of Il Divo's Christmas Tour on December 15, 16 and 17, 2009 in New York City and December 18 in Boston. She has sung the U.S. national anthem at various sporting events, including the 2010 New York Yankees home opener and at Candlestick Park for the NFL's NFC Conference Championship on January 22, 2012. Also in 2010, Chenoweth hosted the 15th Annual Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards on VH1.
In 2013, Chenoweth co-hosted the Oscars Red Carpet Live immediately prior to the 85th Academy Awards and also sang the closing number of the ceremony, "Here's to the Losers", with host Seth MacFarlane, in which, paraphrasing the original Frank Sinatra song, the two poked genial fun at nominees who had not received awards. Chenoweth was the solo performer in the Live from Lincoln Center feature "The Dames of Broadway... All of 'Em!!!" In July, she hosted the fifth Just For Laughs gala in Montreal. She also appeared in the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade performing the song "New York, New York" while riding aboard Royal Caribbean's "A World at Sea" float.
She co-hosted the 2015 Tony Awards.
Chenoweth sang the U.S. national anthem for the Yankees' Home Opener, 2010 In 2009, Chenoweth wrote a memoir entitled A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages, describing her life and career, including her adoption, her turn in Wicked and her time in Hollywood. The book was released on April 14, 2009. It spent two weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.
Chenoweth has spoken publicly about her religious faith; she describes herself as a "non-judgmental, liberal Christian".
According to The New York Times, when Chenoweth "assured her theater fans that she supports gay rights, her Christian base was outraged; she was disinvited from performing at a Women of Faith conference in September 2005". Chenoweth released an album in April 2005, As I Am, a mixture of hymns and contemporary Christian music, with adult contemporary arrangements. To promote the album, she made an appearance on The 700 Club which upset some of her gay fans. She later said she thought that the "Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are scary" and that she regretted appearing on the show.
Chenoweth has dated several men in Hollywood, including producer Dana Brunetti, actors Seth Green, Lane Garrison and Marc Kudisch (to whom she was engaged from 1998 to 2001), and producer/writer Aaron Sorkin. In Sorkin's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the character of Harriet Hayes bears significant resemblances to Chenoweth, and the relationship between the Christian Hayes and "East coast liberal Jewish atheist" (Hayes' description) Matt Albie is modeled after that of Chenoweth and Sorkin. For example, Chenoweth's decision to appear on The 700 Club and her falling out with Women of Faith were depicted with the Hayes character.
Chenoweth suffers from Ménière's disease, an inner-ear disorder that can cause vertigo, headaches and nausea, among other symptoms. She has said that during some performances she has had to lean on her co-stars to keep her balance and that it has caused her to miss performances.
In May 2010, Chenoweth wrote in response to an article in Newsweek by Ramin Setoodeh, an openly gay writer. Setoodeh thought that her Tony-nominated Promises, Promises co-star, Sean Hayes, "comes off as wooden and insincere" in playing the straight character Chuck, and that Jonathan Groff has a similar credibility problem in the TV show Glee. He questioned whether any openly gay actor could acceptably portray a straight character. Chenoweth called the article "horrendously homophobic" and criticized Setoodeh's view as rationalizing "the same kind of bullying" that gay youths face in high school. Chenoweth argued that audiences "come to the theater to go on a journey" and do not care about an actor's sexual orientation. The story was picked up by major media including The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
In 2012, the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center named its theatre the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre.