Post image for Tour Review: KRISTIN CHENOWETH: COMING HOME TOUR (Disney Hall)

by Tony Frankel on November 6, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


If you happened to catch Broadway diva Kristin Chenoweth’s 2014 PBS special, Coming Home, there wasn’t much reason to see her live yesterday at Disney Hall. I am an enormous fan of the Wicked star and Oklahoman ambassador (her special was taped live at the theater that bears her name in the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center), but this hit-and-miss event went from enjoyable to annoying quicker than you can say, “Popular.”

It wasn’t all Chenoweth’s fault: the delightful entertainer was hampered by atrocious acoustics. Amplified sound at Disney Hall is beyond problematic; the audibility of lyrics went from perfect to garbled to unintelligible, which seemed to underscore her unwieldy selections, the majority of which came from Coming Home. As such, the best tunes of the two-act evening were those with the supremely talented platinum blonde joined by just a few instrumentalists from her 12-piece band, or solo with her music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell on piano. Good examples are Jerome Kern’s “All the Things You Are” and Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow,” the latter backed up by Campbell (vocal), Damien Bassman (drums), Justin Smith (violin), and Eric Davis (guitar). After other great performances such as Mancini & Mercer’s “Moon River” and Kander & Ebb’s “A Quiet Thing,” Chenoweth magnanimously proffered what so many entertainers neglect to say: the names of the composers.

Ultimately, it was tough to distinguish why there was, at times, a disconnect with patrons; some viewers were recording on their phones and talking, and other rabid fans were whooping to raise the dead when Dove Cameron came on but then chatted during the following duet of “For Good” from Wicked (it was a worthy gesture from our headliner to have this Disney Channel star share the stage, but I saw no distinction whatsoever from the 19 year-old). My disengagement carried to the end when even a perfect song choice, Charlie Chaplin’s heart-breaker “Smile,” fell flat as an encore—we were witnessing an amazing entertainer who wasn’t always the best song interpreter.

I probably would have overlooked some questionable song choices had this distinctive chanteuse and her pianist been all alone, but I still found some of the quieter tunes didn’t soar because they either didn’t fit her persona (Les Misérables’ “Bring Him Home,” dedicated to the marines) or were simplistically written (the country paean “Fathers and Daughters,” which is treacly in the “God Bless the U.S.A.” vein). Then there’s “I Was Here,” which contained spot-on lyrics wholly lacking in poetry: “I wanna do something that matters / Say something different / Something that sets the whole world on its ear.”


Offsetting these headscratchers were “Taylor the Latte Boy,” an amusing song by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich; the censured version of A Chorus Line’s “Dance: Ten; Looks: Three”: “Boobs and Buns”; and “Evil Like Me,” written by Andrew Lippa, whose song “My New Philosophy” from the updated revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown cinched the Tony Award for Chenoweth.

At 4’ 11”, this wacky and vulnerable powerhouse is the new amalgamated American celebrity singer: She’s a tolerant Christian, a fag hag (“I love my gays”), a yellow ribbon-waving patriot, an inspiration to young performers, a powerhouse belter who can sustain a high E—all wrapped up in a distinctive kooky persona behind a svelte kewpie-doll look (Kristin for President in 2036?). The tunes last night represented a large swath of her amazing career (Broadway, country, standards, gospel), and there was a song for each of her demographics; but in trying to please millennial Glee-lovers, those with a Midwest sensibility, and die-hard Broadway aficionados, the show overall felt like a product—manufactured and precious, not spontaneous and exciting. But don’t tell that to her screaming devotees.

“When I’m in a concert setting, I don’t have to play a role,” Chenoweth wrote a few years ago. “It’s more of a challenge to sing as yourself, because you can go to a very raw place that you don’t always want to share.” Well, she genuinely went to that raw place several times, but I found it interesting that she notated it for us—it just didn’t sit right; I pictured Judy Garland saying, “See? I get so emotional during ‘Over the Rainbow.’” What did work after Chenoweth’s extraordinarily loud rendition of the Arlen/Harburg classic: she humorously quipped, “For you gays who don’t know, that’s from The Wizard of Oz.”

The main reason I like to see my favorite performers in concert is the chance to espy a side of them that I don’t experience in a staged work or on a recording. Aside from some moments of unpretentious emotion and impromptu humor, this cabaret act on steroids proved that being a gifted comedienne and vocalist and humanitarian isn’t enough: The choice of material and the proper venue are both crucial.

Kristin Chenoweth
Coming Home Tour
reviewed at Disney Hall in Los Angeles
November 5, 2015
tour continues through May 22, 2016
for dates, cities and tickets, visit Kristin Chenoweth

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam Kelly November 7, 2015 at 1:14 pm

She is undeniably talented, but she has just never pushed my particular buttons. The voice is terrific, but everything underneath it, when there is anything underneath it, always feels a bit too… manufactured for me. The Stepford Soprano.


James Marino November 8, 2015 at 11:49 am

I was also at Disney Hall. You totally nailed it, Mr. Frankel!


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