The phrase "small but mighty" may have been invented just for Kristin Chenoweth. The diminutive actress she stands at 4 feet, 11 inches is known for her larger-than-life presence on both stage and screen.
Beloved by theater audiences for her roles on Broadway as Sally, the bubbly-brash sister of the titular character in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" (for which she won a Tony Award in 1999) and the original Glinda in the blockbuster hit "Wicked," Chenoweth is as recognizable for her coloratura-cum-cartoon-character voice as for her striking face and small stature.
Television viewers will know her from star turns on "Pushing Daisies" (which earned her two Emmy Award nominations during its two-season run), her own semi- autobiographical sitcom "Kristin," made-for-TV movie musicals "Annie" and "The Music Man" opposite Matthew Broderick, as well as recurring guest roles on "Glee," "The West Wing" and "The Good Wife" (she recently left the latter due to a head injury suffered on set.)
Between recovering her health, releasing her fourth album (a country-pop collection titled "Some Lessons Learned"), participating in a workshop for a Broadway-bound adaptation of the comedic film "Soapdish" and completing a world concert tour, Chenoweth found time for a bicoastal chat from her part-time home in New York before her concert Wednesday at the Sacramento Community Center Theater.
You grew up in Broken Arrow, Okla. How did you get involved in performing?
Singing wasn't the cool thing to do when I was growing up. It was like "Friday Night Lights" in my town. Sports were No. 1, and we didn't have glee, so my way of performing was being a cheerleader.
When I started training to become a singer, my parents said, "You want to do what?" It wasn't in their wheelhouse, but they were so loving and supportive. My path allowed me to perform and have a childhood I feel so blessed.
Is it interesting for you to see how much your life has changed since then?
When I was starting out, I thought, "If I can just get into the chorus in one Broadway show, I'll be happy." I never dreamed there would be such a domino effect. I love what I do, so (the fame) is an added bonus.
But I care so much more about being great than being well-known I have a Type A personality, which is a blessing and a curse.
It certainly seems to keep you busy. You just finished traveling the world promoting your most recent album and now you're coming to California. Do you enjoy touring?
Being onstage is so gratifying, and when you record an album, you have to really be behind it that often means touring. Since I'm still recovering (from the on-set accident), I've had to ease back into what I was doing before. It's a tricky process recovering from a brain injury, so these next concerts probably won't be as physical, but they're a good way to see how far I've come.
For years my fans have asked me to come to them because often people can't afford to come to New York. I know what it means to save to buy a ticket to a show it wasn't long ago that I was doing that, too so I want to give everything I have.
How did you select the songs for this concert?
Every song has been chosen for a reason, sometimes only for me to know. My voice happens to be able to do lots of different things (Chenoweth grew up singing gospel and earned a master's degree in opera performance at Oklahoma City University before taking Broadway by storm) and all four of my albums have been in different styles, so I try to incorporate all that while still giving people what they want from me. I like to challenge myself.
I was also very smart in hiring Richard Jay-Alexander (her producer-director). I'm still the boss, but I do believe you need that outside ear. On every occasion, it's made me better.
I would love to do more by Robert Harling. Nobody writes women like he does. (Harling wrote the play "Steel Magnolias," the film "Soapdish" and its recent stage adaptation, and he developed "GCB," an ABC series in which Chenoweth co-starred that was canceled after one season.) It's always heartbreaking when something doesn't get the life it deserves, but I've gotten good at mourning and moving on to what God has in store.
I should probably worry more (about what's next), but right now I want to get my health back to where it was so I can keep workin'. I'm a workaholic, so as long as people keep hiring me, I'll be fine.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St., Sacramento
Information: (916) 808-5181; www.sacramentoconventioncenter.com