Review of Kristin Chenoweth: For The Girls on Broadway

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    November 9, 2019
    Review by:
    Elizabeth Foster

    Curtains are up and we see Kristin Chenoweth in an undershirt inside out with tags exposed working on lyrics at the piano. What happened to curtain call warning? How can they start the show without me ready? She encourages fans to take out their cell phones and take photos of her scantily clad. She assures us there are underpants under the oversized tee. The undershirts are available to purchase at intermission. Curtain goes down. Reba McEntire is telling us to turn off our cell phones.

    A Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress, Chenoweth's singing facility is polished. Her artistry allows her to convey masterfully the emotive meaning of songs.

    Back on Broadway (at the Nederlander Theatre) where she declares she belongs, in Kirstin Chenoweth: For The Girls she performs songs from her latest album, dropped on September 27, along with songs that did not make the cut. This is a tribute to the female singers who she refers to on a first name only basis who inspired her including Barbra (Streisand), Judy (Garland), Reba (McEntire), Dolly (Parton), and Linda (Ronstadt). The self-proclaimed “Diva” is relentlessly self-deprecating, comfortably referring to her diminutive physical stature.

    In a scene holding up vinyl record albums, listening to her favorite legendary artists from a record player in a doll-sized room, she calls out to thank the stage manager for matching the room to her size. Chenoweth holds up an album cover of Lena Horne, then places it down. The song playing on the record player switches from Horne’s voice to Chenoweth’s as she raises the album cover “For The Girls” slowly. The audience applause drowning out the song. Cute parlor trick.

    Chenoweth is comedic. Her show is a mixture of songs and vignettes performed with guest singers and a cast of musicians showcasing Mary-Mitchell Campbell as musical director. The mutual admiration between the two is apparent especially when they walk off stage arm in arm.

    A song written by Campbell based on a text she wrote to Chenoweth features a chorus of hashtags and emojis. Not featured on the album but used to make a statement about communication today the theme could be developed more.

    “I don’t know what you think of Jesus,” Chenoweth abruptly states to the audience. With applause a few fans stand. She continues, “If you don’t believe in Jesus the song is over in 4 minutes.” Introducing her parents, she reflects on her upbringing in the bible belt.

    She closes with “I Will Always Love You” and midway sings without a microphone. Her tribute to Dolly. She is choked during several songs and at one point almost didn’t finish. House lights come up and as people exit, Chenoweth re-emerges stage right with Campbell to sing her encore, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” A delightful surprise – but then this is Broadway after all, and live performances are always magic in the making and can never be repeated. Each of her performances promises a new line up. The overall feeling is bittersweet and emotional for Chenoweth. Perhaps over the short run we learn more about her motivation and devotion.

    (Photo by Bruce Glikas)

    "Chenoweth, whose freakishly wide-ranging voice can accommodate a multitude of styles, sang Judy Garland favorites, country and western numbers, a Carpenters hit and a gospel crowd rouser."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "The Tony-winning musical spitfire Kristin Chenoweth has built an onstage persona of false immodesty, of hogging the spotlight in a way that fits the ultra-popular Glinda she originated in Broadway’s still-running megahit Wicked 16 years ago. But her new concert show, For The Girls, which kicked off a limited run at the Nederlander Theatre on Friday, proves what a generous performer she is."
    Thom Geier for The Wrap