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Concert review: Kristin Chenoweth hits high notes in more ways than one with OKC benefit show

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Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]
Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]

An abbreviated version of this review will appear in Friday's Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.

Concert review: Kristin Chenoweth hits high notes in more ways than one with home-state benefit show

Since Kristin Chenoweth performed in concert Tuesday night, naturally, plenty of high notes were hit.

But since the Broken Arrow native was performing a home-state concert at the Civic Center Music Hall, not all those high notes were vocal. Earning multiple standing ovations from the sold-out crowd, her 90-minute “My Love Letter to Oklahoma” also boasted a bevy of emotional, comical and charitable highlights.

With proceeds benefiting Allied Arts, the Oklahoma City concert drew a crowd of Oklahoma luminaries like former governor and first lady Frank and Cathy Keating, retired football coach Barry Switzer and “America’s Got Talent” winner Darci Lynne Farmer and her family. Before the show, OKC Mayor David Holt presented Chenoweth a key to the city, adding that “you have been a treasure to Oklahoma City.”

“I’ve been given a lot of keys in my life, but never one from this city – take that however you want,” Chenoweth cheekily commented as she made her way through a long list of acknowledgments.

Also before the show, Mark Frie, Tulsa Performing Arts Center director and president of the ARTSOK Regional Arts Alliance of Broken Arrow, shared that OKC donors, led by Lee Allan Smith, have helped raise funds to build a new center to house Chenoweth’s hometown afterschool art program. In return, Frie announced a $200,000 donation to Allied Arts from ARTSOK.

Taking the stage in a University of Oklahoma jersey over her sleek black suit, the Tony-winning Broadway star opened her set with a heavenly rendition of “Que Sera, Sera,” the signature song of Hollywood legend Doris Day, who died earlier this week at age 97.

Adroitly backed by the Oklahoma City Philharmonic, she crooned another old cinematic classic, Henry Mancini’s “The Sweetheart Tree,” before channeling one of her musical heroines, Judy Garland, with “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” from the 1930s Broadway revue “Thumbs Up!,” playfully perching on the lap of principal cellist Jonathan Ruck and then concertmaster Gregory Lee and not getting up until each had given her a kiss on the cheek.  

Occasionally pausing to sip cherry limeade from a giant Braum's cup – the Oklahoma native quipped her first stop in her native state was Braum’s for a cheeseburger and chocolate malt “because that’s what Spanx are for” - she mischievously commanded the crowd to get out their cellphones so they could film her perky performance of “Popular” from the smash musical “Wicked,” even pausing to go live on Instagram with the sassy number.

“In my head, country music and Broadway music have always kind of gone together – stay with me now,” Chenoweth said, before serenading the audience with the unlikely torch-song mashup of Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” from “Follies.”

The Emmy Award winner fought through tears as she dedicated a slightly tweaked version of Jason Robert Brown’s ballad “50 Years Long” to her parents in the audience, and she brought the crowd to its feet for the first of several standing ovations during the performance when she unleashed her operatic talents on the “Les Miserables” favorite “Bring Him Home,” which she dedicated to those who have served in the military.

Emotions were already running high when Oklahoma City gospel singer Sandi Patty, whom Chenoweth called “my queen,” took the stage to wring every last ounce of feeling out of the heartfelt “Wicked” duet “For Good.”

“As you can see, I didn’t come to play around, and neither did she,” Chenoweth said, adding that Patty will appear on her upcoming album “For the Girls,” due out later this year.  

She and the five-time Grammy-winning gospel singer proved they were in the zone when they launched into Patty’s rendition of the “How Great Thou Art.” They were backed by Oklahoma high-schoolers from Chenoweth’s Broadway Boot Camp, who with the rest of the audience were awed as the two singers traded impossibly high notes to close the rapturous hymn.

“OK, that happened. Thank you God,” Chenoweth said over another standing o.

Chenoweth closed her set with her music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s anthem “Reasons for Hope,” with the Campbell accompanying her on piano and vocals and the Broadway Boot Campers backing them.

The star returned to the stage to perform “au natural,” going without a microphone to croon the pop standard “Smile.” The packed theater was eerily quiet throughout the song, which Chenoweth tearfully dedicated to her mentor Florence Birdwell, who was her voice teacher at Oklahoma City University.

As she undoubtedly intended, the encore sent her home-state fans off smiling.

-BAM 

 

Related Photos
Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]

Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-ba862ab6ce66891ba6133d94c49ca7bb.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]" title="Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]"><figcaption>Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth sings the national anthem before an NBA basketball game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011. [Nate Billings/The Oklahoman Archives]</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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