Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth’s Saturday show at the Carolina Theatre in Durham is nearly sold out, as of press time. And it’s no wonder.
The 47-year-old singer-actress, who 13 years ago originated the role of Glinda in the Broadway musical “Wicked,” is beloved by fans. (“Wicked” went on to become a touring sensation and ends a run in Charlotte on Sunday, the same night Chenoweth performs in that city.) Chenoweth is also known for TV roles on “Pushing Daisies” and “Glee.”
There are plenty of reasons for fans to celebrate the Tony and Emmy Award winner’s visits to Durham and Charlotte this weekend. Here are just five.
1. She’s not a North Carolina girl (Chenoweth is from Oklahoma), but she’s no stranger to the state. In 2009, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, where she was the commencement speaker. “Kids in New York will come up to say to me, ‘I was there when you got your degree!’ ... I love that. In the arts, the connections you make just continue on.”
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2. She won’t deprive fans of the songs she’s become most (pardon the pun) popular for. “I’ve got to give people what they want from me, or I’ll be shot,” Chenoweth says. So that means “Taylor the Latte Boy” is definitely in the set list. So is “Maybe This Time,” which she crushed on the Fox TV series “Glee.” And, of course, she’ll do “Popular” from “Wicked.” “I’ll never not sing it. It’d be like Barbra Streisand not singing ‘People.’ ” But she does mix it up: “I’m now borrowing a little bit from our dear Mr. Trump, and that seems to be going over really well. Can’t give too much away there, but you’ll see....”
3. She puts her own spin on others’ hits, and she rarely does the same exact set list two nights in a row. Among the artists she’s covered during recent shows: Don Henley, Jerome Kern, Giacomo Puccini, Kander and Ebb, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Dolly Parton and Adele. “I have to keep challenging myself,” Chenoweth says. “I’m putting a lot of new stuff in. It’s always changing.”
4. Her special guests should give the show a hint of local flavor. Chenoweth has been performing duets with hand-selected talent from the city she’s visiting. “What I’ve been doing on the tour is inviting kids studying musical theater in high school or college, who wouldn’t normally have an opportunity, to join me on our last couple songs.” She says one is a Christian song (“a get-down church song” and the other is “I Was Here,” from her “Lessons Learned” album. “I love to see them have the experience of being on stage. Us having a musical moment, having a true experience together, it’s something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.”
5. She’s got a special Valentine’s weekend date with the Louisville Orchestra. OK, OK – so this doesn’t have anything to do with her show here. But her Feb. 13 show in Kentucky is worth mentioning because it will be a tribute, at least symbolically, to the late Natalie Cole. Chenoweth booked the date as a replacement for Cole, who had to cancel due to illness; the R&B singer died of congestive heart failure Dec. 31 at age 65. “I’ve always admired her. When I got the call that she was sick, I thought, ‘I know I would appreciate it if she did the same for me.’ ... As artists, there’s a misconception that we (don’t care) if we get sick and miss a show. But there’s a lot of artists that aren’t that way, and she was one of them.” Chenoweth plans to perform one of Cole’s songs during that concert.
What: An Evening with Kristin Chenoweth
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
Info: 919-560-3030 or carolinatheatre.org