The effervescent actress and singer does her hometown proud on a new album

On her first live album, Coming Home, Kristin Chenoweth found herself on familiar terrain. The Tony Award-winning actress and singer performed a pair of sold-out shows at the Kristin Chenoweth Theatre in her hometown of Arrow, Okla. “I absolutely wanted to make my hometown a part of the album, so I had my high school choir sing backup on one of the gospel songs,” she says. “And my parents were in the audience. It was really special.”

Known for her roles on Broadway (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked), TV (The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, Glee) and film (Bewitched, Tinker Bell, Four Christmases) Chenoweth displays an organic diversity on her album. “The music is all over the map, which is who I am musically,” she says. “I love country, gospel, musical theater and operetta. And it’s all there. Every aspect of music I love to sing is represented.”

Her choice of material is also eclectic—the songs run the gamut from poignant sadness to unrestrained glee. “I definitely wanted to perform songs I knew the audience would love,” she says. “That of course includes songs from Wicked (‘For Good,’ ‘Popular’), but I also wanted to show a deeper side. Songs like ‘My Coloring Book’ and ‘I Was Here’ really hit home for me. I wanted to keep people smiling and full of joy, so I included ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again.’”

Plucking inspiration from the Great White Way and the Grand Ole Opry, Chenoweth has determined her direction by observing her heroes. “When I look at Madeline Kahn, Carol Burnett, Julie Andrews and Dolly Parton I giggle, because they are all so different and unique,” she says, “but I think why I relate to them is because they are each their own special performer and entertainer. They are originals.”

For Chenoweth, 46, the stage is still her refuge and offers a platform to create and experiment. The live performances on Coming Home left her feeling exposed, her relief mixed with tension and an immense desire to succeed in front of friends and family members. It’s this irresistible nature that has helped her reap the most of her many talents. “It’s amazing to hide behind a character on Broadway, but being in concert and performing as myself is the most rewarding,” says Chenoweth. “Anytime there is a live audience, I really soar.”

–Blake Boldt

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