Review: Chenoweth charms AMT crowd with a little help from Jonathan Groff

Review: Chenoweth charms AMT crowd with a little help from Jonathan Groff

The first thing you think when you see Kristin Chenoweth perform on stage, is how can someone so little sound so big? At Wednesday evening's performance at American Music Theatre, which featured a special home town guest, Chenoweth proved that at just 4 foot 11, she could bring down the house. Her voice was so powerful and emotional and moving, that you had to pause to realize that what you were hearing came from a woman who is just a slip of a thing. That voice is something else, able to move seamlessly from a full operatic soprano to a down-home country girl twang from Oklahoma. She was all at once sweet, charming, silly and elegant. All dressed up in skinny black silk pants, super high heels, a strapless white top and shimmery necklace, Chenoweth sported a short blonde hairstyle that played up her fun personality. She fairly glowed in the limelight as she thanked everyone for braving the weather and coming to her show. But that didn’t stop her from sharing that limelight. Chenoweth brought her “Glee” co-star, Jonathan Groff, who grew up just down the road from AMT in Ronks, up on stage to sing a duet. Audience members squealed as Groff joined her on stage to tell the story of how they met through Chenoweth's musical director. (According to an audience member, Chenoweth and Groff rented a car to drive the two hours from New York City yesterday to get to the AMT show.) "He is the most wonderful man I know," said Chenoweth, as Groff joined her from his seat in the audience with his family. They sang a sultry version of "Islands in the Stream." After their duet, Chenoweth exited the stage for a costume change (she would come back in a slinky black gown) and left Groff to entertain the audience and he did just that by declaring that Chenoweth was drinking Turkey Hill iced tea out of her WaWa Big Gulp and singing "Movin' Too Fast" for the packed house. Chenoweth returned to stage with a gift for Groff — a shoofly pie — and then continued with her show. It was a highlight in a show filled with highlights. She was able to bring a tear to the eye with songs like "Fathers and Daughters" about the special bond she has with her father, and "It's a Quiet Thing" from the little known Broadway show "Flora the Red Menace." That song, by the way, gave Liza Minelli her start. She also sang the poignant "My Coloring Book," a song recorded by Barbra Streisand for her "Color Me Barbra" album, with all the heartfelt emotion for a lost love. "These are the eyes that watched him as he walked away, Color them gray. This is the heart that thought he would always be true, Color it blue..." are a few of the words by Fred Ebb and John Kander. Chenoweth explained that when she was an opera student at Oklahoma City University, she was just about to sing that song, when her mentor and voice teacher told her to stop. She wasn't ready to sing it, because she didn't understand the meaning. On Wednesday at AMC in Lancaster, she showed that not only had she experienced its meaning, but she could make the entire audience feel it too. Something else that Chenoweth proved was just how "Popular" she really is. On an evening that had begun the day with sleet, freezing rain, power outages, fallen trees and a half inch of ice, Chenoweth's popularity was put to the test. And she aced it. Playing to a nearly full house, the appreciation of her fans was overwhelming. "I'm from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma," she said. "But my parents lived just down the road in West Chester for 10 years. So this is like a homecoming to be here." Chenoweth drew on her stage and screen star power, performing songs from "Glee" and from Broadway shows like "Phantom of the Opera" and "The King and I." It was with great glee that she launched into "Popular" from "Wicked," as she sang portions of the song in Japanese and German. As she pointed out, when you sing a song so often, you need to change it up a bit. Also from "Wicked," Chenoweth sang "For Good," the song about how lives are changed by friendship. Since she didn't have her usual partner for the duet between Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch--- she was the Good Witch of course--- she called on the audience for help. Four young ladies from the audience offered to sing Elphaba's part, including Amy Jo, Molly, Jackie and Ariel. When Ariel said she was a graduate of Chenoweth's alma mater OCU, she was tapped to step on stage and join her idol in "For Good." Her repertoire ranged from the touching "Bring Him Home" prayer from "Les Miserables" to the comedic "Tired of Love," in which she shuffled on stage in slippers and bathrobe, flirting with a man in glasses named Joel. Perhaps Chenoweth's shining moment was when she sang the song that she calls her favorite, "Over the Rainbow" from "The Wizard of Oz," in her rich, luminous voice. Or maybe it was when she sang her own rendition of the Whitney Houston hit "I Will Always Love You." As she pointed out, it was written by Dolly Parton, and if ever there was a love song of love songs, that was it. Especially the way that Kristin Chenoweth sang it.