Kristin Chenoweth: Beyond the Bubble

When I think of Kristin Chenoweth (Tony Award winning Broadway star and Emmy Award nominated actress) the first thing that flashes into my brain is the radiance that always seems to shine from her blithe smile and her enticing green eyes. She seems to greet the world with boundless positive energy and a demure confidence that could melt a heart of stone. Of course, this is Hollywood, a world of manufactured facades and tailor-made personas for even the most grounded, modest and humble in the Show Business. For me, that is the allure of Chenoweth’s recently published autobiography A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages as it paints a portrait of a woman who not only spreads around sunshine, but who does so as best she can in an imperfect world. That makes this read refreshing as well as inspiring. Sometimes Kristin Chenoweth gets grumpy at the airport. Sometimes Kristin Chenoweth eats deliciously gluttonous food (she provides the recipes as well, so in fact, she also advocates indulging yourself with some “Chenolicious White Trash Cookies” (You know you’re curious!)). Kristin Chenoweth has had her fair share of tumultuous relationships and she has also battled Depression and Insomnia. She is not simply the vivacious, beautiful bubbly Galinda the Good Witch she played in Wicked on Broadway. Like Glinda, like all of us, her story is far more complex and rich than it may appear on the surface.
For me, Chenoweth’s book is a homage to the blessings she has found that push her to succeed, to thrive, and to find joy in an imperfect world. I use the word “blessing” and it may conjure up religious connotations for some people. Indeed, Chenoweth is very vocal about her Christian faith, and her roots in the Oklahoma Baptist Church tradition. She explores how her faith has provided a solid foundation upon which she has built her life in her book, and also speaks about how it can conflict with her decisions as an actor and the expectations of the communities of Los Angeles and New York along with those of the Devout Christian sector. That aside, however, the word “blessing,” even in a more secular sense, still seems to be the most accurate way to describe Chenoweth’s book.
She speaks adoringly of her family, particularly of her parents, Junie and Jerry Chenoweth. She speaks of her mother as she tells the story of being adopted saying, “She and I have always had a unique connection, and I wonder if, somehow, some part of her spirit knew that I was out there, that I belonged to her, and she needed to find me” (14). In this world where there is so much dysfunction and so much pain and sadness in families, this may seem slightly saccharine sweet, but in Chenoweth’s genial frankness, with her frequent smatterings of hilarity, the stories of her family come across as fresh as sweet country air. It is clear that her parents, along with her brother, Mark, and their extended family provide the un-quavering support and unconditional love that every child deserves.
The energy that continues to propel Chenoweth forward and which drives the story of her autobiography is her passion for music and for performing. She has a dedication, motivation and profound respect for her craft which mirrors the experience of so many of the aspiring performers who admire, respect and hope to follow in her footsteps. Chenoweth not only gives qualified advice for young performers in the book, but the portrait she paints of her life in New York with her best friend Denny Downs before You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown is a poignant, honest testament to the perseverance, tenacity and gumption required in the pursuit of one’s dreams. It appears a Tony Award is not properly earned until one has slept on a bunk bed with strangers and developed a parasite. Who knew?
I know that Chenoweth used a ghostwriter, Joni Rodgers, in the development of this book and Rodgers receives much credit both on the book cover and throughout the work, which screams of a fairness and generosity not always seen in Hollywood. That being said, I felt like Chenoweth’s voice was distinctly captured in the writing of this book. She has a unique, strongly captivating, and sincere voice that I found irresistible. Reading this book made me feel like Kristin Chenoweth was sitting beside me over red wine and potato chips and speaking candidly about her experiences with no pretense or agenda. It was a fun read without being a mindless one because her emotions, her rich emotions always tugged at the heart.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Kristin Chenoweth. It seems as though it was written very much with these people in mind and tells the types of stories that those interested in Wicked and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and The West Wing and Aaron Sorkin and Andrew Lippa will find fascinating and fun. I would also urge anyone who has felt alienated or offended or confused by Chenoweth’s seemingly contradictory choices in the past few years to read this book as it may provide some clarification. Certainly, Chenoweth came under fire by many for her appearance on Christian Fundamentalist Pat Robertson’s The 700 Club (to be fair, Robertson was not there when she taped the show), as well as for her beliefs regarding gay rights by members of the Christian community. She speaks with passion, confidence and intelligence on both of these issues in the book.
Kristin Chenoweth emanates charm and magnetism on the stage, on screen, via her CDs (with Sony Classical) and on each page of her book. She may sing and predict the weather from her “hoo hoo,” but this autobiography proves that Chenoweth tells stories from the heart and spreads passion from her soul.

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages by Kristin Chenoweth with Joni Rodgers was published in 2009 by Simon and Schuster, Inc. New York City. It can be purchased at all major bookstores. It has a retail price of $25.00 US or $32.99 Canadian (hardcover).

Leave a Reply