It’s been a massively busy 2021 for Kristin Chenoweth. She released her latest stunning Christmas collection Happiness Is…Christmas, appeared in the innovative Apple TV+ show Schmigadoon! , and reunited with Wicked co-star Idina Menzel on the Tony Awards to sing the now-classic song “For Good”. Between all of this, Chenoweth found the time to get engaged to musician Josh Bryant. As the year winds down, I sat down once again with this multi-talented and multi-faceted superstar to talk about the recent Wicked casting, the inspiration behind her latest album, and what 2022 just may hold for her.
Michael Cook: Tell me about the new album Happiness is…Christmas. Recording and now releasing a holiday album truly is the remedy we all need right now after a challenging time.
Kristin Chenoweth: Thank you so much, I agree. I think the more Christmas music the better. Just holidays make people happy. When I said I want to make a Christmas album, I said I really want to do it in Nashville because I love the musicians there. I wasn’t disappointed, I had royalty. Each one of those ladies and gentlemen were Nashville royalty on my record. Picking the music was really hard. I picked some new songs that no one has heard. “Why Can’t it be Christmas Every Day” is kind of an ear worm, I love it. Jay Landers, my producer, wrote it and it’s really good. We really put it in the Phil Spector world. Then there’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “My Dear Acquaintance,” that Peggy Lee wrote that not a lot of people know that she wrote. There’s “Everybody’s Waiting for the Man with a Bag,” and K Star, an original “Oky” girl sang it. I’ve got a little bit of everything for everybody and I’m very proud of it. This is my second Christmas record. I just can’t wait for y’all to hear it.
MC: The casting for the big screen version of Wicked was just announced and it is creating some massive buzz. You have been a mentor to Ariana Grande since she came to see you in Wicked all those years ago. What do you think about her is going to make her the perfect Glinda for the big-screen production?
KC: I met her when she was ten. I knew that she had the chops. I’ve been close with her since. I think what makes her the perfect Glinda is that she sees from afar. You know, Wicked, the show itself means good and bad. Both girls are good and both girls battle bad. And I think that’s life. I think Ariana sees that I think she knows that that’s the key to the arc of Glinda. The arc is the bigger arc of the two; she starts Glinda the good, but is she really good? And then she turns and it’s what makes her good and I think Ariana is going to nail (it). Not a lot of people know that Ariana Grande is also very funny. That is a requirement for the role. She’s got to be a comedian. Nonetheless, we all know that she’s going to sing the crap out of it. Arianna is perfect for Glinda.
MC: What are some of your own favorite memories of the holiday season growing up in Broken Arrow, OK?
KC: I always loved on Christmas Eve when my dad would read the story of the birth of Christ out of the Bible. Then we got to pick one present and open it up. Then after that, we have to go around the room and talk about one thing that we’re the most grateful for. Being grateful is really the most important thing. In my faith, that’s what God wants the most. He just wants us to be grateful and thankful for what we have. Those are traditions that I will continue on long after Mom and Dad are gone. I will continue those special memories.
MC: This holiday season, you are celebrating your engagement to musician Josh Bryant. What is it like to truly have found “your person”?
KC: Relief. Safety. Nothing but love, acceptance, tolerance. Not jealousy. Happy for me, wants me to be my better self and I want him to be his better self. Those are the key ingredients to a happy relationship.
MC:What was it like to be a part of the Tony Awards and singing with Idina Menzel once more, and then appearing on-stage at the opening night when Wicked returned to Broadway?
KC: Let me start with the first part of your question. You know, Idina and I will be linked forever because of what we did together in Wicked. That’s a cool thing to have something that you’re linked to for the rest of your life. It’s very rare that we’re together, as we both have our own careers. When those moments do come, it’s very emotional. Now we’re coming upon the 20th year next October. Both of us can’t believe that it’s been 20 years. I have a feeling for as long as we’re alive, on very special occasions we’ll be singing “For Good,” which for me the song is really about forgiveness. That’s a big theme in that show and I certainly do love it. I could feel her heart. I definitely knew my heart and I think it was a special moment actually. To be together to sing that song on the telecast. We know it really well. We sang it all the time, but to do it originally with the person that you originated the role with is pretty cool.
I was asked to come and greet everybody at Wicked at the Gershwin Theatre and it’s not very often I get to go back to the Gershwin so of course, I said yes. To see the house packed, to see people standing and clapping and being there to celebrate Broadway almost brought tears to my eyes. I was so, so, so proud of all the people backstage getting ready, being together. You should have seen what I saw when I walked out from the curtain to the audience. What was happening backstage was even cooler. They were there for each other, they were ready to go. I told them you will never have another night like this. This is like when we opened almost 20 years ago. This is a reopening of your show. So take it, love it and have fun.
MC: Your portrayal of Mildred Layton on Apple TV+’s Schmigadoon! adds to the cannon of classic characters you have portrayed. What do you look for the most to play in a character that you are presented with? And what was it like working in such a unique show like “Schmigadoon” that brought musicals to everyone’s living rooms?
KC: For me, it’s always going to be the challenge of the role at this point; can I do it? When the director Barry Sonnenfeld told me that this 16 page would become a one shot, meaning no cuts, and it’s a power song, I thought hmm, I think he knows me. He knows that I’m going to take this role and the sheer determination and challenge of it because it was not easy; It was hard. But it was an accomplishment that I wanted to get to. I had to have it, I had to do it. Prove to myself, not others, myself that I could do it. And I did. Also I got to work with all my friends, so that was really fun too. This is the fifth job I have done with Barry Sonnenfeld. It was pre-vaccine during the pandemic, we were all tested every day. Thank you Lauren Michaels at NBC for that. We were extremely safe. I fell in love with Cecily (Strong) and Keegan (Michael-Key). I feel like we’re all family, Schmigadoon!.The last thing I want to say about Schmigadoon! is it made people laugh. It made people happy during a time when we needed it. I certainly hope there’s a season two.
MC: We have to talk Real Housewives and Bravo; did you love the last season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Are you excited for The Real Housewives of New Jersey and The Real Housewives of Miami? What shows are you diving into right now and loving on Bravo?
KC: Obviously those that know me know I love Bravo. Anything on Bravo, I love Bravo! Andy Cohen is a really good friend of mine. I call him and give him notes, I’m sure he doesn’t much appreciate it. But I have lots to say. I’m always going to be a little partial to Beverly Hills because of the fashion. I like to shop by watching what Dorit is going to wear or Lisa Rinna. What are they going to wear? I will say I miss Lisa Vanderpump, I want her back on the show. I love the Richards’ girls. Kathy Hilton is a revelation on the show, she is bringing hilarity to the show. Sutton has become one of my favorites, just because I’m a southern girl and I can relate. I’m also really glad that Garcelle is on there because to me, she’s right now the voice of reason with everybody. Can you tell I have a feeling about every single, every single one?
MC: You performed at this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade; what does it feel like to be able to embrace a true New York City tradition and help usher the holidays once again?
KC: This will be my fifth or sixth time doing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. All of them have been good memories. I did do it in a blizzard once. That was pretty rough. But to see the happy, smiling faces as you go by is worth it. The 3:45am call that’s kind of tough. But then you meet people you admire, like Darius Rucker. I’m just so excited to be a part of it and hopefully make people happy.
MC: What does 2022 hold for you? Anything you can talk about? I see you have joined the cast of “National Champions”….
KC: Yes, the movie comes out in December. I love the subject matter. It’s opposite JK Simmons, he’s so incredible. 2022 I got to get married, I’ve got to plan a wedding. That’s going to be a focus. I’ll hopefully continue to work but my first priority is to plan a wedding.
MC: What has the challenging last 18 months taught you as a performer and a person?
KC: It’s very hard to say because if I’m not Kristin Chenoweth, out there singing, dancing, performing, being a host, making a record, being on tour, then who am I? That’s been the hardest part for me. Josh, my fianceé, and I became closer during the pandemic. He really, really was the person for me that helped me through it. I’m a creature of the theater. I love a live crowd. I love to be in an audience and watch people do their thing. I love to be up there. Everybody’s had difficult times, we’ve all had difficult times. We’ve had people, friends and family die and not be able to have a funeral and not be able to mourn. This pandemic that we’re still in, we are climbing the mountain and we’re getting to the top. There’s a lot of hope, which is the theme of my Christmas record. Hope. Hope, light represents hope. We are light as Stephen Schwartz wrote in one of my song. 2022 is just going to get better and better and better as I see it.
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Cover Photo by John Russo