Kristin Chenoweth's roots firmly in Oklahoma though she lives among stars
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Thursday, June 21, 2012
6/21/12 at 3:05 AM
Official Kristin Chenoweth website
Kristin Chenoweth is more than a Broadway star.
She's more than an actress, a singer, a movie star, a Thunder fan and Oklahoma Music Hall of Famer.
Chenoweth is a God-loving, pure-bred Broken Arrow girl, through and through.
Now, her first world tour is officially going to end where her career began: Broken Arrow.
She's touring in support of her latest album, "Some Lessons Learned," the country album she's always wanted to do, she told CBS Minnesota before canceling her concert there due to a tracheal infection.
The same infection prompted her to cancel interviews in Tulsa, but she'll be in her hometown on Sunday, she said.
"Well, I grew up in Oklahoma and always wanted to do that, and I signed with Sony, I guess, 10, 11 years ago, and I said, 'Will you just promise me you'll let me release a country album at some point?' So this fourth album, I got my way, and I'm so happy with it," she told the Minnesota station.
And her hometown is so happy to have her back that the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center is naming a theater in her honor.
"When I came in to open this center in 2009, we wanted to bring Kristin in. So it's been three years, and we finally got her," said Mark Frie, Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center executive director. "She's had a great career. She's been a role model for children and an inspiration for children involved in arts in our public schools."
The performing space will be named the Kristin Chenoweth Theater at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center.
Frie wrote the star a letter a year and a half ago and told her the venue's vision and mission, he said.
"Her agent said she's very honored and excited to come home."
Hearing the news about the renaming made her cry, Chenoweth said in a March Tulsa World interview.
"I knew I was going to end my concert tour in Oklahoma for sure, but probably, I thought, at the Tulsa Philharmonic or the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, but it just seemed right to do it in Broken Arrow. Then when I heard that (about the naming), I knew it was ordained like it's supposed to be that way. I cried. I couldn't believe it."
The reasoning behind the naming is simple, Frie said: "Kristin is everything a professional should be. She's an ideal example of what our public schools and the result of what arts and music classes can be."
Just ask Jo Jo Nichols, one of Chenoweth's drama teachers at Broken Arrow High School. As an intern in 1985, Nichols helped teach Chenoweth's junior drama class for a semester.
Nichols has been the high school drama teacher since 1989.
"Although I was only able to teach Kristin for a short time, I knew then that she was something special," Nichols said.
"The tiniest of girls, Kristin was always the biggest personality and presence in the room. She sparkled then as she does now with an inner glow of passion, warmth, charm and talent. I remember her simply as bright, funny and kind."
The kindness endures, as does her larger-than-life presence. As recently as 2004, Nichols and her daughters visited New York City and caught Chenoweth in the Broadway production of "Wicked." She rushed to the backstage door on the off chance of seeing her former student, but the line was too long.
Or at least, she thought so.
"I simply wrote her a note and gave it to the backstage doorman with a request to give it to her. When he learned that I had taught Kristin he escorted my two daughters and I in to see her before anyone else.
"When she came through the door, she was the kind and funny young girl that I remembered. I can still see her looking up at us. My 5-10 and 5-9 daughters were in heels, and so the 4-11 Kristin had no choice but to speak UP to them.
"But it didn't matter, she was still the biggest presence in the room."
One 29-year-old fan, Prue Reid from Sydney, Australia, knows that friendly feeling, as well. She's making the trip to Broken Arrow for Sunday's show.
"I know what this town means to her, which suggested to me that the concert will be one of the most powerful and emotional. Also because it is the last show, they are often more emotional because it is the end of something great, and if it has all gone well, it's a happy occasion."
Nichols, Frie and Reid agree. There isn't just one favorite thing about Chenoweth.
"I usually say the variety is the best thing, all the different things that she does are all so entertaining, but the variety also keeps her so interesting," Reid said. "I love everything: her voice, her comedic timing, her slight craziness, her appreciation for her fans..."
She'll be in luck this weekend, then, Chenoweth recently told the Detroit Press.
"The show is really diverse. It's everywhere, very eclectic, like me. I grew up loving gospel and country music, but when I studied voice (at Oklahoma City University) that took me into opera. And, of course, there's Broadway."
Chenoweth's done just about everything since then. She's been the good witch in Broadway's "Wicked" and the GCB in television's short-lived "GCB." She's also acted in shows including "Glee," and "Pushing Daisies," and acted on-screen in "Running With Scissors" and "The Pink Panther."
Reid's been a fan of the star for more than four years and has struck up something of a friendship with Chenoweth on Twitter, she said.
"My first tweet was after I first saw her on stage in 'Promises, Promises.' I thanked her for still coming out and signing playbills despite light rain, and she said something like 'No, thank YOU for comin'.'
"The funniest was probably when I said I love when she snorts, which she actually just did a lot at her Detroit concert this week, too! She had done it on TV or something like that, and she tweeted something like 'Yes, snorting is my forte, unfortunately.' "
Chenoweth's former teacher thinks it's her Oklahoma upbringing - talented, personable and grounded - that keeps the actress's fans coming back.
"Kristin - or Kristi as we called her as a girl - has never forgotten her roots," Nichols said. "When my students have traveled to New York and had the opportunity to talk to her after a show, she has always been gracious and giving of her time."
Crazy about the Thunder
Kristin Chenoweth is a huge fan of the Oklahoma City Thunder, which plays Thursday night against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. You can bet she'll be watching. In an email to the Tulsa World, she wrote:
"I recently spent three hours bedazzling my Thunder cap. No. I'm not kidding. ...
"I have to be honest. I've always been more of a baseball girl. But then I had a boyfriend who loved the Lakers, so I started watching. Then, we got our (Oklahoma) team (and) I became obsessed. Like, it's bad. I feel as if I know each and every player, yet I've never met one guy. I also love how committed they are as a team. They are hungry, which is why our day is coming. People better watch out. The Thunder is just getting started for a long run.
"I was thrilled they asked me to do commercials, and will always make myself available for my Thunder. Jack Nicholson move over because the Thunder have Chenoweth! Hahahahahahahaha.
"I also think having a pro team is great for our city. I believe I got Ellen DeGeneres to be a fan. Yes, I take credit for that. I also think we have a cool mascot. Take that Miami. I am sad because they asked me to sing the anthem again, but I'm on tour. I believe we will take the ring, the big trophy this year. And the next. And the next ... OK, I will shut up now."
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center, 701 S. Main St.
Tickets: SOLD OUT. Due to venue set-up, there may be a limited number of last-minute seats released for sale, call BAPAC for more information, 918-259-5778.
Pick up Sunday’s Tulsa World for an
interview with Kristin Chenoweth,
where she’ll talk about her sold-out
concert in her home town, love of
animals, childhood memories, faith and
Original Print Headline: Hometown girl
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Kristin Chenoweth returns to her native Broken Arrow on Sunday to close out her first world tour. Courtesy
Prue Reid is a Kristin Chenoweth fan from Sydney, Australia. She will be in Broken Arrow for Chenoweth's homecoming show. Courtesy
Chenoweth loves Rumble, the Thunder's mascot. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World