To say Kristin Chenoweth is busy may be a bit of an understatement.
The 49-year-old native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who performs Thursday at the Lied Center for Performing Arts, has one film in theaters, the animated “My Little Pony,” another opening soon, the animated “Star,” and sang a duet (“The Prayer”) in September with opera star Andrea Bocelli. The two will share a stage for five more performances, including two in December at Madison Square Garden.
Chenoweth will star in the ABC pilot, “The Real Fairy Godmother,” playing a self-absorbed “real housewife” who learns that she’s descended from a secret order of fairy godmothers and has an inescapable destiny to use her magical abilities to help those in need.
All this comes on the heels of last year’s release of “The Art of Elegance,” her second album featuring songs from the Great American Songbook, many of which will be heard during her Lied concert, and the spring adoption of a new puppy, Thunder, named for her favorite NBA team.
“And also because she sounds like a thundering herd of buffalo when she runs,” she said in a story she wrote for Guideposts magazine.
Having earned bachelor’s (1990) and master’s degrees (1992) from Oklahoma City University, Chenoweth performed in regional theaters before bursting upon the New York theater scene in 1997, first off-Broadway as Hyacinth in the Roundabout Theater Co. production of “Scapin” and then on Broadway as Precious McGuire in the musical “Steel Pier” by Kander and Ebb, which won her a Theatre World Award for Outstanding Broadway Debut.
In 1999, she performed as Sally in the Broadway revival of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She originated the role of Glinda in Stephen Schwartz’s hit “Wicked” (2003).
Her TV credits include NBC’s “The West Wing” (2004-06), an Emmy Award-winning turn in ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” (2007-09), “Glee” (2009-11, 2014), ABC’s “GCB” (2012), and, most recently in Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel “American Gods.”
Before her Lied show, Chenoweth took some time to answer five questions, ranging from her time on stage to her battle with Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder. Here is that conversation:
Ground Zero: During a recent interview on “Live With Kelly and Ryan” you talked about celebrating your 20th year as a Broadway performer. What sticks out the most for you during those 20 years?
Kristin Chenoweth: I think it’s more now what I’ve learned about the destination. I always thought it was about the destination, but now I know it’s really about the journey. So what sticks out to me is the good and the bad stuff. Because without all that I wouldn’t have been able to get where I am.
GZ: Your schedule is so diverse, from TV (“American Gods”) to movies (“My Little Pony,” “Star”) to the stage (singing with Andrea Bocelli). Do you make a point of being versatile and what draws you to a project?
KC: I think good music, good script, good character. When you’re doing a concert, you’re still just relating a song as yourself. If you’re loving a song and it’s speaking to you, then you should just sing it. The same with a role and the same with a show. All of it’s the same to me. That’s what I say about singing. You sing it when you can’t speak it anymore. That’s why you sing.
GZ: I love that Jon Bokenkamp, creator of NBC’s “The Blacklist,” regularly returns to his Nebraska hometown (Kearney) to screen episodes at a theater he helped to renovate. You make a point of giving back to your hometown (The Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center recognized her contributions and accomplishments in 2012 with the opening of The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre). Can you talk about why this is important to you?
KC: I love it because we didn’t have that theater growing up and I had nowhere but nearby Tulsa to go. We really couldn’t afford to do that a lot. So now there’s one in my hometown. We just did our third summer arts camp there. Our kids get to come for a week and learn about theater. I get why (Jon) does that. It makes complete sense. Again, it’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey and leaving your mark.
GZ: Some readers may or may not know you’ve been diagnosed with Meniere’s. How does that affect the way you live your life?
KC: It’s really an Achilles heel. It sucks. There’s a feeling of spinning, falling down an elevator. It’s all inner-ear related, vertigo. When it happens real bad, there is no controlling it. I’m leveled. Of course, all the things in my life that I do can affect it, like flying, eating salty foods, I have to sleep on an incline. I have to often adjust medication for the inner ear, for the salt in body. It just sucks having it. It involves hearing loss and different weird sounds. Sometimes it sounds like a freight train, like a fluttering noise. Sometimes it sounds like a sing-song thing in your head. It’s a really hard thing to manage. But a lot of people have difficult things in their lives, and this is mine.
GZ: And, finally, you’re scheduled to perform show tunes and songs from the Great American Songbook at the Lincoln concert. Are there certain songs that you just love to sing? If so, what are they and why?
KC: If you buy my album, “The Art of Elegance,” you know the story of why I pick a lot of those songs. There’s an arc to the record that you can hear. I think when you’re young and you’re learning Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer, Porter and Gershwin and when you’re singing them when you’re 19, it means something different than when you’re in your 40s. It seemed time to make that kind of album -- to, I guess, again, show the journey and not necessarily the destination.