We first treated ourselves to the chocolate chip cookies and breath mints in the lobby. Sitting in the back of the Terrace in Merrill Auditorium, we waited in anxious anticipation for her to walk out on stage. First came her pianist, Mary Mitchell, whose musical accompaniment amplified the atmosphere to a chilling threshold. We waited. The crowd was filled with the quintessential art and Broadway fanatics who went wild when Kristin popped out of the stage right wings in her sequined ivory full-length romper.
After seeing on her on Glee years ago and fawning over YouTube videos of her performances as Glinda in Wicked, we were so excited to finally see her in the flesh. As the name of the show “An Intimate Evening with Kristin Chenoweth” implies, she brilliantly used personal stories, a humble, down-to-earth tone in her voice and the occasional try at humor to transform this concert hall into an environment similar to that of a hipster coffee shop performance. It is because of this intimacy that we will be referring to her by her first name throughout this review. Before every song, she spoke to the audience like she was talking a best friend, asking us questions every once in a while, truly making us an important part of the experience for her, the performer. She used this time to talk about why the next song was significant to her, one of which defined the relationship between she and her father. She also took advantage of our undying attention to advertise her new album, The Art of Elegance, from which most of her set list came from. She was classy throughout the entire night.
The quality of Kristin’s voice is nothing other than that of an angel. It has a full and bell like sound that sent chills down the backs of every audience member. Kristin sang a variety of both jazz and Broadway songs throughout the night. Her impressive range allowed her to flawlessly transition from singing a low jazzy song to a high musical theater song. As expected, her voice blew audience members away, each song seeming even better than the one before.
To start the night off, she began by grabbing the hearts of her Maine fans by expressing her love for Portland, with this being her first time visiting the state. She had with her on stage a stuffed lobster (despite her distaste for seafood) and a Moxie water cup – two icons of the Maine culture. To explain how much she loves the lifestyle here, she talked about her experience at Becky’s Diner in Portland. She was amazed not only by the food, but by the way she was treated. Just her telling the audience this story immediately broke down any impersonal barriers and developed a trusting relationship with us.
Beyond that, Kristin is more than just a performer; she is an entertainer. Her lightheartedness and sense of humor made the show flow, one song after the next. Although the songs she sang were not her original songs, she still nonetheless made them her own and connected with them in her own profound way. She gave a brief discourse before each song, providing some context to connect with and include the audience. Music has a way of touching people so deeply and this was especially revealed when Kristin used her songs to supplement her social commentary; not only is she exceptionally talented, but also socially aware. She brought up the current state of our country with the many shootings that have made their way into national news. Kristin beautifully sang the tear jerking song “Bring Him Home” from the acclaimed musical Les Miserables after she addressed the death and involvement of children in a recent shooting.
On a more positive note, Kristin lightened the mood with the hilariously adorable song, “Popular” from Wicked where she starred as Glinda, a cheerful, bubbly type who attempts to turn her outcast roommate Elphaba into someone a little more popular. In this performance, Kristin took a creative turn and instead started by telling the audience that Donald Trump had called her recently and asked her for advice on how to make people like him. Her advice to him was through the song “Popular” which was a brilliant and relevant placement of the song she is the most well known for.
One of the most memorable parts of the night was when Kristin called out eight singers from the University of Southern Maine to join her on stage. When they first came out, Kristin went up to each singer asking them to introduce themselves to the audience which was a heart warming moment of sincerity on her part. They got to sing alongside her for the final two songs of the set. It was an unforgettable moment those singers will remember for the rest of their lives.
Kristin has a way of wooing the audience in any context. That night in Portland was unforgettable for any Broadway enthusiast.