Petite powerhouse soprano Kristin Chenoweth, returning to Broadway in On the Twentieth Century, shares why the role of Hollywood starlet Lily Garland is one she has “always wanted to play” and how she keeps in contact with Wicked co-star Idina Menzel.
After a four-year absence from the Great White Way, Tony and Emmy Award winner Kristin Chenoweth heads back to the Main Stem this month in a revival of the 1978 Comden and Green musical On the Twentieth Century. The actress stars as Hollywood starlet Lily Garland opposite Peter Gallagher‘s Oscar Jaffee. Chenoweth’s return to Broadway not only marks a long-awaited homecoming for the star; she’s also paying homage to one of her idols, the late Madeline Kahn.
F: Welcome back to Broadway, Kristin! Why come back with On the Twentieth Century? K:I have always wanted to do this part. When I made my first album, I worked with Betty Comden and Adolph Green and I sang a song that they wrote from a show called Two on the Aisle called “If.” I invited them to come to the recording studio, and they said, “There’s a part we wrote for Madeline Kahn, and you have to do it.” This was in 2000, and I said, “Oh, what is it?” They told me, On the Twentieth Century, and I said I’d never seen it, but my voice teacher told me one day that I would do it. Many years later director Scott Ellis and Todd Haimes [artistic director for the Roundabout Theatre Company] contacted me and said we want to do this for you. We did a reading about three years ago, and I knew this was a show that I needed to do sooner rather than later because the demands of it are for a coloratura. Also I think I may be dancing a lot more in this than Madeline Kahn did in the original.
F: And you’re home. K: I’m home with my people. It makes me happy. I get really emotional about it. I’ve had some wonderful experiences in films and on television, and we have our own version of a family there. But when you do eight shows a week, [when] you see someone every day for a long time — I can’t describe it, you know?