Emmy and Tony award winner Kristin Chenoweth dazzled the Shippensburg University campus on March 24 at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center with “An Evening with Kristin Chenoweth.” Chenoweth performed songs from her most recent albums, fan favorites from Broadway and other well-known sentimental pieces.
While originally from Oklahoma, Chenoweth still has ties to the Keystone state since her parents moved to West Chester while she was in college. In 1991, Chenoweth competed in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant and was the second runner-up. In 1992, she decided to compete in Pennsylvania where her parents had moved, and again she placed as the second runner-up.
“I bet that I know more about your state than most of you [in the audience],” Chenoweth said. She competed in the pageants for the scholarship money, Chenoweth explained to the audience at SU.
Though her parents resided in the eastern side of the state, where Wawa is the unofficial favorite over Sheetz, Chenoweth had a Sheetz soft drink cup with her throughout the performance. While she noted that she is still a big fan of Wawa, she still went to the Sheetz and even had a meal at CJ’s American Pub & Grill in Shippensburg.
After her first song, Chenoweth introduced her supporting vocalists, Marissa Rosen and Nikki Kimbrough. The two sang their own solos within the song as they were introduced to the audience. After a song from Chenoweth’s holiday album, “HAPPINESS… is Christmas!” she performed a trio with Rosen and Kimbrough.
The three performed Chenoweth’s rendition of “You Don’t Own Me” from her 2019 album “For The Girls.” The 1963 Lesley Gore song was originally recorded on Chenoweth’s album as a duet with Ariana Grande. Chenoweth, Rosen and Kimbrough split the song sharing their powerful vocals with the audience.
Chenoweth then introduced Mary-Mitchell Campbell, the musical director of the show, pianist, supporting vocalist and Chenoweth’s longtime friend. When introducing Campbell to the audience, Chenoweth explained that Campbell had recently injured her foot and was supposed to be wearing a boot to protect it. Campbell had not been wearing the boot, opting instead for a pair of sparkly heels.
Chenoweth had Rosen bring the boot out to Campbell insisting that she must wear it at least for the second act.
The bit was followed by Chenoweth’s rendition of “Desperado” from her album “For The Girls.” She was joined by Josh Bryant, the show’s guitarist, in the middle of the stage. After the acoustic performance, the two stood to hug and kissed, receiving cheers from the audience.
“I didn’t say how well I knew him,” Chenoweth said. “Only be with someone who makes you a better person, or else don’t waste your time.” Chenoweth and Bryant announced their engagement back in October 2021.
The first act of the show ended as Chenoweth sat with Campbell at the piano and the two sang a duet of an operatic prayer. Chenoweth’s master’s degree is in opera performance from Oklahoma City University.
The second act of Chenoweth’s show opened with popular musical songs. She first performed “Popular” from the Broadway musical “Wicked” in which Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda in 2003. Chenoweth also performed “Over the Rainbow” originally sung by Judy Garland and “Green Finch and Linnet Bird” composed by the late Stephen Sondheim.
Chenoweth explained to the audience the close relationship of Sondheim and Campbell before joining Campbell again to perform a heartwarming reinvention of Sondheim and Willie Nelson’s music.
She performed more favorites from different musical composers and shared anecdotes about them before closing the show.
Moments after the show ended, Chenoweth returned to the stage for an encore. She cryptically explained that she wanted to try something before singing Nat King Cole’s “Smile” for the audience without using the microphone.
Chenoweth exclaimed that the acoustics in the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center rivaled that of Carnegie Hall in New York. It was truly a night to remember at SU.