REVIEW: Kristin Chenoweth thrills Boston with her unshakable optimism, humor, and unstoppable vocals

“Boston is my second favorite place in the world,” reveals a glimmering Kristin Chenoweth, “Don’t tell New York.”  Wearing a black, glitzy cocktail dress paired with shining silver pumps and a megawatt smile, award-winning singer and film, television, and musical theatre actress Kristin Chenoweth excitedly burst onto the Boston Symphony Hall stage, standing before an equally shimmering microphone as the crowd roared.  “I feel like I’m in Oklahoma,” she revealed, sipping from a large Dunkin’ Donuts cup, “It feels right.”

It also felt right for the enthusiastic, packed house as Chenoweth kicked off her one night only, Celebrity Series of Boston debut of An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth on Sunday, April 30.  Symphony Hall was appropriately lit in Chenoweth’s signature color as Greek statues above the balconies gave off a violet and pink hue.

Celebrity Series Symphony stage

Celebrity Series of Boston at Symphony Hall Photo courtesy of Jeanne Denizard

Greeting the audience with Should I be Sweet by Vincent Millie Youmans from the musical, Take a Chance, a thrilling, flirtatious ode debating the perfect way to present oneself, Chenoweth immediately lured the audience in with her engaging, vivacious, and wonderfully charming personality as well as her rich, unstoppable vocals.  From beautiful stories about her parents to her unfailingly optimistic, humorous, and unbridled reflections on her life and career, Chenoweth proved not only a brilliant entertainer, but an incredible joy just to spend time with.

Accompanied by her Worcester-raised Music Director Michael Orland on piano, who is also the vocal coach to the hit show, Little Big Shots, Kristin Chenoweth spoke about a few of her past career highlights in television such as GCB, West Wing, Glee, Pushing Daisies, and Hairspray Live, to new projects such as a recently filmed pilot set in Boston as well as her new role on American Gods that premiered on Starz that same evening.  Chenoweth also revealed a few significant roles that horrified her God-fearing parents, having been raised in the Bible belt in Oklahoma.  For instance, having heard about Chenoweth’s new role as a witch in Wicked, Jerry and Judy Chenoweth shockingly asked, “Is the show satanic?”  She also launched into the scandalous Broadway tune from the hit musical, A Chorus Line called Dance Ten Looks Three, cheekily toning down the lyrics to coincide with her conservative upbringing.

Kristin Chenoweth in Boston

Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

What makes An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth so powerful is for that evening, Chenoweth’s uplifting view of life helped to make life a bit more bearable, even in its sadder moments.  Her recitation of The Obituary of the Pillsbury Doughboy was a particular highlight as a moment of silly humor following a glorious and emotional rendition of the beloved song, Bring Him Home from the musical, Les Miserables as she alluded to the Boston and Oklahoma bombings, a painful reminder of what Boston and her hometown have in common.

Chenoweth warmly shared her early experiences longing to become a ballerina, her surprising friendship with Julie Andrews, and what inspired her latest Grammy-nominated album full of Chenoweth’s favorite songs from the American Songbook, The Art of Elegance.  She sang a poignant, timeless selection from the album by Hoagie Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, I Get Along Without You Very Well.  She also delivered a few of her signature songs with lively exuberance such as Taylor, The Latte Boy and Popular from the musical, Wicked, her soaring, silvery, classically-trained vocals dancing from pop to operatic, perfectly complementing her witty sense of humor.

Kristin Chenoweth on Symphony Hall stage

Kristin Chenoweth with the Boston Conservatory and the Boston City Singers Photo courtesy of Robert Torres/Celebrity Series of Boston

Chenoweth surprised the audience by bringing out the Boston Conservatory and Boston City Singers to join her onstage to perform as she expressed her love of mentoring students and her love of all faiths.  “For those who don’t believe,” Chenoweth added, “this will be over in four minutes.”  Accompanied by the two choirs, she launched into the worship song, Upon this Rock.  Her performance closed with what Chenoweth refers to as her anthem, I was Here, though her tender, memorable encore, Smile, may have also stayed with the audience long after the show was over.

Click here to see where the award-winning Kristin Chenoweth will be touring next as well as how to get a copy of her latest album, The Art of Elegance.  A few performances remain in the Celebrity Series of Boston’s season.  Click here for tickets and for a closer look at this season’s shows and here to take a peek at their recently announced 2017-18 season.  Follow Celebrity Series of Boston on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Kristin Chenoweth, making her Celebrity Series of Boston debut on April 30, talks favorite roles, latest album, and more

From a church choir soloist to an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress and singer, Kristin Chenoweth has been dazzling audiences on film, television, and on stage with her dynamic range and powerful vocals for over 20 years.  Currently promoting her sixth album, The Art of Elegance, she will be making her Celebrity Series of Boston debut for ‘An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth’ at Symphony Hall on Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m.   The evening will include a selection of her most popular songs, pop, American standards, and Broadway tunes.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Kristin Chenoweth talks about some of her favorite and most challenging roles, the inspiration behind her Grammy-nominated album, and a few surprises she has encountered along the way.   Click here for more on her upcoming projects.

Celebrity Series 1739-Kristin-Chenoweth-Credit-Bryan-Kasm

The Art of Elegance with Kristin Chenoweth Photo courtesy of Bryan Kasm

Sleepless Critic:  You’re an actress, singer, Broadway performer, and voiceover artist.  You sang in church at an early age.  Was singing your first love?

Kristin Chenoweth:  My first love was ballet.  I wanted to be a ballerina, but I didn’t have the flexibility in my feet.  I was so glad I had that training at a young age because I began to hear classical music and then I wanted to take piano.  I think I was about eight years old when I had my first solo in church and that’s kind of when things shifted for me.

SC:  You will be exploring a number of genres during your upcoming concert.  Pop, songbook classics, Broadway, a bit of everything you’re known for.  What kind of music do you enjoy listening to?

KC:  I love all kinds of music and I shift in and out and change a lot.  Right now, I’m listening to a lot of Linda Ronstadt.  I get on these kicks and I’ll just listen to something over and over and it shifts all the time.  There are so many artists I admire, but that’s what I am doing right now.

SC:  Have you ever had a role that you had certain expectations of and you ended up totally surprised by on Broadway or otherwise?

KC:  Absolutely, I think playing the female lead in Promises, Promises.  I knew it would be a challenge for me to play her, but it was really surprising how much I fell in love with her and came to really understand her.  There’s a big part of me who really knew who this person was.  It might not have been what fans wanted necessarily, but it is important as an artist to not always do what is expected.  The part scared me and that is how I knew I needed to do it.

SC:  You won a Tony as Sally Brown in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown. What has been your favorite role so far?

KC:  On Broadway, it is definitely Lily Garland in On the 20th Century.  It was a role that required a lot of my own skill set and it is an operetta with tons of movement and high brow comedy.  I probably never worked harder, but it was extremely gratifying.

SC:  You have such a great vocal range.   Was there a note that you discovered you could hit that took you by surprise?

KC:  I remember being in a voice lesson while at Oklahoma City University.  My teacher was vocalizing with me.  I didn’t study voice growing up.  I just sang in choir and was in drama in high school.  That was my training, so I never had a voice lesson.  When I went to OCU, she vocalized with me up to a high F sharp above high C.  I knew that was high, but I couldn’t believe it.

For many years, I sang arias that required a high F and I noticed it’s maybe not there like it used to be.  I would say I am living in more of the D or E flat area, but that was a crazy high note.

SC:  When a song is particularly challenging, how do you overcome it?

KC:  It’s so funny, we were just talking about one of the songs from Promises, Promises the other day with Michael Orland, my music director on this tour.  The song is called, Knowing When to Leave by Hal David and Burt Bacharach.  I just told him that it hammered away at my voice eight times a week because it is very repetitive in an area of my voice that is what we call passaggio.  That song scared me.

Finally in rehearsals, I thought less about being note perfect and more about the character.  I find that when you let go, you really think about what you are singing and mean what you are singing.  It hasn’t always gone that way and I don’t always make the right decisions, but that is when you let go, you can get there.  That song was a big challenge for me and to this day, I think it’s hard, but I worked on it, wrote it down, lived it, and warmed up to it.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll pull it out again.

SC:  The Art of Elegance is your latest album.  What was the inspiration behind it and why did you choose American songbook classics this time around?

KC:  Basically, I made a list of a bunch of songs and it kept pointing to this era.  I love the lyrics.  I love the melody of its time and they are some of the greatest songs ever written by composers such as Gershwin and Cole Porter.  I didn’t know The Very Thought of You very well.  I think I heard it a couple of times and then I really started to investigate the song.  That happened a lot on this album and now, of course, I just feel like I want to do a part two.

Click here for more information and for tickets to Celebrity Series of Boston presents ‘An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth’ at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston, Massachusetts on Sunday, April 30 at 7 p.m.  Celebrity Series of Boston just announced their 2017-18 season.  Subscriptions, gift cards, group, and student discounts available.  Click here for more on their upcoming season.

Celebrity Series of Boston thrives on support from the community. Click here for a variety of ways to support Celebrity Series of Boston.

See Boston Marathon film documentary ‘Boston’ nationwide for one night only

Finding strength and endurance in life’s challenges is easier said than done, especially when it comes to one of the most cherished and epic races in history.  Hailed as one of the most demanding marathons since its inception in 1897, for many, The Boston Marathon encapsulates a lifelong goal.  It takes the utmost endurance, agility, stamina, and determination for some the fastest runners in the world to conquer and suffer through the Boston Marathon’s annual awe-inspiring journey from Hopkinton to Boston.  Boston invites audiences to hear a few of those extraordinary stories and more for just one night on Wednesday, April 19.

In its 120th year, the Boston Marathon will show its first feature-length documentary film, Boston as a nationwide Fathom event on April 19 only.  Narrated by Academy Award-winner Matt Damon, Boston explores the extensive history, the building momentum of the Boston Marathon over the years, the incredible stories of its runners, and continuing the race following the tragic events in 2013.  Sponsored by John Hancock, learn the story of the Boston Marathon’s first charity runner, Stelios Kyriakides, who ran to support poverty-stricken Greece during World War II.  Boston interviews first female runner Bobbi Gibb, the first Kenyan and African to win Boston, Ibrahim Hussein, and shares the story of exceptional runner Johnny Kelly, who ran the Boston Marathon 61 times.

Boston is directed by award-winning filmmaker and marathon runner Jon Dunham, who was able to share exclusive marathon footage, photos and memorabilia with permission from the Boston Athletic Association.  Jazz instrumentalist and Emmy award-winning composer Jeff Beal, best known for creating the haunting score of the Netflix’s drama series, House of Cards, composed Boston’s extraordinary soundtrack, which was recently recorded live at Symphony Hall.

Click here for a closer look and tickets to Boston. Get further details on their Facebook page.

The Boston Pops perform at Boston Marathon film premiere ‘Boston’ on One Boston Day

Conquering distance with each stride is easier said than done.  Hailed as one of the most demanding and beloved marathons since its inception in 1897, for many, The Boston Marathon encapsulates a lifelong goal.  It takes the utmost endurance, agility, stamina, and determination for some the fastest runners in the world to conquer and suffer during the awe-inspiring journey from Hopkinton to Boston.

In its 120th year, the Boston Marathon is getting its first feature-length documentary film, Boston.  It will explore the extensive history and the building momentum of the Boston Marathon over the years, the stories of its runners, and the devastating events of 2013.  Jazz instrumentalist and Emmy award-winning composer Jeff Beal, best known for creating the haunting score of the Netflix’s drama series, House of Cards, is composing Boston’s extraordinary soundtrack.  On Monday, February 13, Beal will conduct the BSO and record the soundtrack at Boston Symphony Hall.  He will then lead the Boston Pops for a live performance on One Boston Day on Saturday, April 15.

Hosted by WBZ-TV and anchors Lisa Hughes and David Wade, the Boston Pops orchestra performs Beal’s original Boston score live at the world premiere screening of Boston on Saturday, April 15 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre in Boston.  Sponsored by John Hancock, a portion of each ticket sold to this special performance will support Martin’s Park, which is being built on Fort Point Channel.  The Martin Richard Foundation was founded to commemorate Martin Richard, the eight year-old boy who was killed five years ago during the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  The park is named after him, the youngest of the victims.  Click here to make additional donations to Martin’s Park.

Take a closer look at the upcoming film, Boston here.  Click here for ticket information or call 800-982-2787.  Follow the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Twitter, and like them on Facebook.

REVIEW: Magnificent and visually-stunning, Holiday Pops offers flawless holiday cheer

Woven into a wide spectrum of Christmas carols, spiritual hymns, and holiday music capped off with a rousing sing-along, is the stuff that makes the Holiday Pops so appealing each year.  Whether it’s through the excitement of the all volunteer Tanglewood Festival Chorus or maestro Keith Lockhart sharing his own Christmas memories, The Boston Pops adds their own unique, personal flair to each heartfelt performance, making it easy to alleviate the stress of the season and happily embrace what truly matters each year.  In its 21st season, The Holiday Pops at Boston Symphony Hall continues through December 31.   The Boston Pops also offers special presentations of the film, “Back to the Future” with live orchestra and New Year’s Eve led by acclaimed bandleader, Bo Winiker.  Click here for more information and for tickets.

Elegantly adorning the intrinsically-detailed gold balconies are white, twinkling lights and multi-colored bulbs on thick, festive wreaths, just a sampling of the stunning, festive surroundings inside Symphony Hall.  The hall also offers its share of playful, humorous decor including orchestra harps topped off with Santa hats.  During the show, the stage spontaneously came to life with a variety of scenery reflected above the stage, from flickering candles to sweeping, dancing snowflakes.  Holiday Pops also featured a stirring presentation of winter scenes created by visual artist and astronomer Jose Francisco Salgado, PhD.  With a lit sky swirling violet with chiming bells, the presentation’s depiction the Northern lights to the song, The Adoration of the Magi from Three Botticelli Pictures lent a mystical, peaceful tone.

This powerful performance of Holiday Pops offered equal doses of reflective material and lightheartedness, the first half insightful and striking.  A Christmas prelude that included Hark the Harold Angels Sing, kicked off a reflective, wondrous first half woven in with maestro Keith Lockhart’s personal reflections of the holiday season such as a wonderful story about his father.  A lullaby sounding Christmas oratorio, Break Forth O Beauteous Heavenly Light followed by the Hanukkah song, Light One Candle depicted sacrifice, unity, and hope.  Holiday Pops also offered a jubilant calypso of Mary’s Little Boy Child, as the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, dressed splendidly in black and white, playfully swayed to the beat.

Brimming with beloved classic Christmas carols and guest appearances by Santa and more, the second half of Holiday Pops was a vibrant, yuletide spectacle of Christmas cheer.  While old fashioned Christmas bulbs glowed to the beat, The jolly Tanglewood Festival Chorus delivered a string of Christmas waltzes, singalongs, and more including the annual reading of Clement Charke Moore’s Twas The Night Before Christmas by special guest, NBC Boston’s Melody Mendez.  Boston’s delightful, signature versions of Sleigh Ride and the incredible and amusing 12 Days of Christmas were welcome additions to the mix as Santa Claus expertly conducted the rousing Chorus.  Holiday Pops gave a final encore of Let There Be Peace on Earth, as Earth shone overhead, brilliantly conveyed the quiet hope for the upcoming New Year.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has a tremendous lineup in the New Year!  All performances take place at Boston Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Ave in Boston, Massachusetts. Click here for tickets to any of BSO’s upcoming performances, through SymphonyCharge at 888-266-1200, and at the Symphony Hall Box Office, 301 Massachusetts Ave, Boston, Massachusetts.  Listen to the Holiday Pops at home with “A Boston Pops Christmas: Live from Symphony Hall” album available through ITunes, Amazon, and Amazon MP3.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks his return to Symphony Hall for thrilling New Year’s Eve concert

Swing into 2017 once again at Symphony Hall! Brimming with spectacular live entertainment and a full menu of scrumptious cuisine led by returning bandleader Bo Winiker, the New Year looks bright with an elegant evening with Boston Pops New Year’s Eve December 31 at 10 p.m. The doors open at 8:30 p.m. Click here for tickets to this exciting evening and more information.

Accomplished bandleader Bo Winiker talks about preparing to join the Boston Pops for a monumental sixth time, his future plans, and his biggest wish for 2017. Click here for a closer look at Bo’s jazz band, Winiker Music.

Jeanne Denizard: How does it feel to be invited back to Symphony Hall on one of the biggest nights of the year? It must have been a wonderful surprise.

Bo Winiker: In one of his last and greatest speeches, the late Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of having ‘been to the mountaintop.’ To me, standing on stage at Symphony Hall and performing with the finest musicians in the world is making it to the top of that mountain. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. I remember the feeling of walking out on stage for the very first time and being completely overwhelmed with emotion. It is a feeling I will never forget, and I can hardly believe that I was asked back once, let alone for a sixth time. It is an incredible honor.

JD: New Year’s Eve is quickly approaching. Do you feel ready for it? How do you prepare for such a high-profile performance? I know your band is consistently updating your music repertoire.

BW: My son Kim, when asked a similar question, once answered that he was born ready. In a sense, I feel this way now. I have been a professional musician for more than 50 years so I have been preparing for this assignment my entire life. All the hours of practice, rehearsals, and the thousands of performances have given me the confidence to stand on one of the most important musical stages in the world with one of the world’s finest orchestras and still feel as relaxed as if I were playing alone in my own living room. That being said, I do spend a considerable amount of time studying the scores and practicing my solos.

JD: How do you usually spend New Year’s Eve?

BW: Since I was ten years old I have always performed on New Year’s Eve. In fact, I have performed on just about every major holiday my whole life. The idea of staying home on a holiday is impossible to imagine!

JD: How has Winiker Music been this year? What new projects or events coming up?

BW: This has been one of our best years ever. My brother Bill and I measure our success by how many people we make happy. Based on that fact, this has been one of our most successful years yet. We have performed at multiple weddings, quite a few corporate events and fundraisers, and keep up a regular weekly performance at a local Brookline restaurant called ‘Brothers’ in Brookline. This December has been especially busy with holiday parties!

JD: What are your future plans and your biggest wish for 2017?

BW: My plan for the future is to keep swinging on the bandstand and on the golf course for as long as the good Lord will let me!

As for my biggest wishes for 2017, I hope that this year brings me the opportunity to keep making people happy with my music. I try to do good deeds that build up the people around me and make them feel good about themselves. There are so many people in this world who do not think about the impact their actions have on others. I wish more people walked the earth with love in their hearts.

I hope 2017 will allow me to continue learning new music every week, something I have strived to do throughout my entire career. I am always excited by new music, from the Great American Songbook classics to the newest hits from America’s Top 40. I love to follow new artists who are constantly bringing innovation to the industry with unique melodies and rhythms and I listen to everything I hear very closely. Learning and performing this music is the best way for me to connect with younger generations and I love surprising people from the bandstand when I switch from Louis Armstrong to Taylor Swift. It keeps me on my toes and young at heart! I may have been performing for over 50 years, but there is always something new to learn. My work is not done yet!

The Boston Symphony Orchestra has an incredible lineup of live performances coming up including a thrilling presentation of Back to the Future with live music from the Boston Pops on Friday, December 30 and Saturday, December 31. New Year’s Eve with the Boston Pops featuring vocalist Cyndy Gayle and special guest Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. will take place on Saturday, Dec. 31 at Symphony Hall, 301 Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts at 10 p.m. Click here for more information and for tickets.