Homecoming: Kristin Chenoweth gives heartfelt concert in Broken Arrow
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Monday, June 25, 2012
6/25/12 at 3:51 PM
In a rare homecoming concert, Kristin Chenoweth's entertainment career came full circle Sunday night at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center.
The singer, songwriter, actress and star brought with her a heart-warmingly personal and charming set that covered everything, including stories and music about her Christian faith, her friends, family, school days, shoes and early and current career.
Chenoweth spoke briefly before the concert, keeping it short to rest her voice due to a recent tracheal infection that forced her to reschedule three of her U.S. concert stops.
That didn't stop her from smiling broadly at the night's pre-concert theater dedication. The 4-foot-11-inch entertainer beamed as she posed in front of a sign welcoming guests to the Kristin Chenoweth Theater at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center.
"I'm overwhelmed, I'm just overwhelmed," the Broadway and television star - and Broken Arrow Tiger - said quietly. "I can't believe this is happening. ... When I drive down and see this building, the performing arts center ... It's like Oz!"
She added, "I didn't have anything like this growing up here. ... Now people have a place to perform and create. ... It's amazing."
It was a dream come true for the venue's executive director, too. "From day one it was my hope that this concert would happen,"said Mark Frie, who helped open the venue three years ago. Nearly 1,500 fans filled Chenoweth's namesake theater.
Broken Arrow resident Dawn Seing raised her two children in the local schools and was dressed in a brilliantly-hued feather hat and swingy polka-dot dress for Sunday's special occasion. "My kids were in band and drama, but they became a doctor and engineer," she said. "But we're so lucky to have these programs and people like Kristin to come out of them. She's one of the best ever."
Seing, 47, said she's waited three years (since the center opened) to see Chenoweth in concert.
One couple, Heidi Rios and Dana Podrebarac of Lawrence, Kan., met on Twitter as Chenoweth fans more than a year ago, Rios in California and Podrebarac in Kansas. The pair struck up a friendship that quickly turned into more. They moved in together a month ago, and Sunday's concert was the first for the pair to attend together.
"The only reason I joined Twitter was to follow Kristin," 30-year-old Rios said. "Then I met all these fans from all over. We're more than fans now; we're friends and we're all friends with Kristin. She's really known for entertaining all of us, even online."
The couple met with other "Twitter family" before the concert, including 28-year-old Darcy Pizzi from Nashville. She left a friend's bridal shower Saturday night and drove to Tulsa to see Chenoweth's hometown show. She was planning to make the nearly 10-hour drive home after the concert, "in time to make it to work Monday morning," she said, then laughed.
One theme is constant with all her fans, it seems. "We love Kristin for her personality," said 44-year-old Podrebarac. "She has an amazing voice and this glow to her - she glows with charisma. I've never seen anything like it before."
Chenoweth launched into Sunday's set with tears and a minutes-long standing ovation as she performed the "Glee" tune "Home" with a 12-piece backing band and three supporting vocalists.
Her two-act set spanned her eclectic career, including favorites from "Wicked," "Glee," "Promises, Promises," "Les Miserables," albums "As I Am" and "Some Lessons Learned," as well as the hilarious ''Blazing Saddles'' movie tune "I'm Tired" and a version of the disco hit "Enough is Enough."
Tunes included Wicked's "Popular" and she invited up a teenage audience member from the crowd to sing with her on "For Good." Chenoweth also introduced the audience to a special friend in the front row, her Oklahoma City University voice teacher, Florence Birdwell.
"Until this theater was built, Broken Arrow didn't have any Broadway shows come through town like now," she said. Her own idols sang to her through her car speakers and cassette tapes, she said.
Longtime Chenoweth friend John Sawyer also joined her on stage for a version of "Never Fall in Love Again," which they first performed together 20 years ago, she said.
"How did we meet?" Chenoweth asked. "School. Wait. You stood me up. We were supposed to see 'CATS.' ... And there I was." He agreed, saying he made it up to her last night with a home cooked dinner. BFFs again.
"I got to go to my favorite place today. I drove around with my parents and saw my high school. I saw my church. ... I saw my old home." She said as she sipped on an oversized soda to soothe her throat, then launched into an impromptu Mighty Tigers cheer from her Broken Arrow High School days.
In a sweet, intimate moment, the star dedicated her tune "Fathers and Daughters" to her dad, who was in the audience. "That's tough to sing when your daddy's in the house," she said with emotion tight in her voice.
"It's great to be home."
Born: July 24, 1968, in Broken Arrow
Education: She is a 1986 graduate of Broken Arrow High School and earned a B.A. in musical theater and an M.A. in opera performance from Oklahoma City University.
Inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame: 2010
Inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame: 2011
Current residences: Los Angeles and New York City
Most noted Broadway performances: Glinda (the good witch) in Broadway's "Wicked" (2003). She also won a Tony for her role as Sally Brown in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" (1999) and 2010's "Promises, Promises."
Most noted television roles: Emmy-winning role of Olive Snook in "Pushing Daisies," media specialist Annabeth Schott in "The West Wing" and bad-girl Carlene Cockburn in "GCB."
Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center
A selection of upcoming shows:
Oct. 7: "In The Mood" 1940s Big Band Musical
Dec. 16: "Christmas At The Movies" with the Signature Symphony
Feb. 14: David Phelps Valentine Concert
Feb. 17: "Shrek: The Musical"
Mar. 3: "Monty Python's Spamalot"
Apr. 20: Oak Ridge Boys and Blind Boys of Alabama
Original Print Headline: Homecoming
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Kristin Chenoweth walks onto the stage at the Kristin Chenoweth Theater at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center on Sunday. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
Dena Podrebarac (left) and her partner, Heidi Rios, of Lawrence, Kan., wait in line to watch Kristin Chenoweth perform at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center on Sunday. Ross moved from California to Lawrence after the two met by following Chenoweth on Twitter. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World