By Brian Scott Lipton
Fifty-one. Fun-sized. Full-voiced. Fashionable. Fearless. Flawless.
Perhaps there’s a dictionary somewhere full of other “F” words to describe Kristin Chenoweth, but as anyone who sees her new Broadway concert For the Girls can attest, these adjectives will do more than nicely. Over a two-hour span, the Tony Award-winning dynamo consistently enchants, delights and disarms her audience – often with her delicious, self-deprecating humor — practically turning the Nederlander Theatre into her own private studio where we are made to feel like familiar guests.
Speaking of familiar, many of her selections come directly from her recently released CD, also titled “For the Girls,” which honors some of the world’s greatest singers and songwriters. Chenoweth invests all of herself into each of these selections, from her exuberant opener, “I’m a Woman,” to a defiant “You Don’t Own Me,” a rhapsodic “The Way We Were,” and a thrilling “The Man That Got Away.”
Equally superb were a couple of cuts that Chenoweth considered for the album, Hugh Prestwood’s heartbreaking “The Song Remembers When” (made famous by Trisha Yearwood) and The Carpenters’ gorgeously nostalgic “Yesterday Once More,” as well as a truly lovely “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” a spirited “Art Is Calling for Me (I Wanna Be a Prima Donna)” from the 1911 comic opera The Enchantress, and, especially, a haunting take on Leonard Cohen’s modern classic “Hallelujah.”
As it turns out, one also needs a dictionary with the letter “G,” for generosity, to fully convey what takes place on the Nederlander stage (all under the super-savvy direction of Richard-Jay Alexander). Chenoweth happily shares – and even sometimes cedes – the stage to her regular cohorts, including her fabulous musical director Mary-Mitchell Campbell, her wonderful co-vocalists Crystal Monee Hall and Marissa Rosen, and her hunky choreographer Tyler Hanes, who joins the group onstage for a surprisingly clever routine set to the great standard “I Wanna Be Around” (which, it happens, was co-written by a woman, Sadie Vimmerstedt, an Ohio beautician who was inspired by Frank Sinatra’s divorce from Ava Gardner.)
Even more remarkable is how specially Chenoweth treats her special guests. On Sunday night, the terrific Alli Mauzey, another one-time Glinda, joined Chenoweth for a bit of the ever-popular “Popular” from Wicked, before soloing on a soaring “I Could Have Danced All Night,” while the soulful Morgan James practically tore off the roof with an earthshaking “Feelin’ Good.” Best of all, Wicked composer-lyricist Stephen Schwartz was also on hand, first duetting with Chenoweth on a striking version of The Eagles’ “Desperado” (which was a megahit for Linda Ronstadt), and then joining Chenoweth and Mauzey on the gorgeous “For Good,” which practically brought tears to my eyes.
Fittingly, Chenoweth ended the evening with a tribute to her friend, the legendary Dolly Parton, by performing her beautiful ballad, “I Will Always Love You,” with much of the final verse spoken a cappella to the audience, sending us out into the November night with our hearts even fuller than they were when we entered the theater.
In a “F” word, it was a fantastic show!
Kristin Chenoweth: For the Girls continues at the Nederlander Theatre (208 West 41st Street), November 15-17 remaining shows
Visit www.ticketmaster.com for tickets.