Happiness is Kristin Chenoweth at Jorgensen

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If you’re like me and you’re experiencing a little post-holiday depression, it might be nice to reflect on the joys of the season as you tackle the new year. For many Huskies, the highlight of the holidays was Kristin Chenoweth’s concert at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts. On Dec. 11, 2021, at the tail-end of finals week, the Tony and Emmy Award-winning star hosted “An Evening with Kristin Chenoweth: ‘For the Girls.’” The long-awaited concert had been postponed twice before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chenoweth made her grand entrance off the stage rather than on it. She surprised the audience by taking a seat among them and revealing her identity after the lights dimmed. After riffing with a few star-struck concertgoers, she took her place on the stage, and an evening with Kristin Chenoweth really began.  

In the spirit of the season, the concert mainly consisted of songs from Chenoweth’s holiday album “Happiness is … Christmas.” Despite its title, the album features songs that celebrate all aspects of the holiday season, not just Christmas. Her performance of composer Stephen Schwartz’s “We Are Lights,” a slow piano-heavy Hanukkah ballad, elicited thunderous applause from the audience. She also captivated the theater with “My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year),” a fresh twist on the classic “Auld Lang Syne.” 

“I just made a decision,” Chenoweth said. “When it comes time for me to hang it up, I’m moving here!” 

Chenoweth brought more than just her amazing vocals to Jorgensen that night. Her southern charm, coupled with a great sense of humor, made her seem like an old friend rather than a celebrity. She had an easygoing rapport with the audience and her band, whom she treated like family. Broadway music director Mary Mitchell Campbell (“Mean Girls,” “The Prom”) accompanied Chenoweth on the piano. They shared a funny exchange about Chenoweth’s sassy side before launching into “I’m Not a Diva.”   

“I love that her people are real and that they all work together — they’re not performers, they’re a family,” said concert attendee Cindy Rawson. “I’m planning on seeing her again in New York, but I know it won’t be nearly as intimate. She’s an absolute gift.” 

The singer told stories about her time on Broadway and on movie and television sets, scattering a few epic name drops here and there. After serenading the audience with a mashup of Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” and Stephen Sondheim’s “Losing My Mind” from “Follies,” she recounted a night she spent jamming with Nelson in his tour bus parked on Broadway.  

Chenoweth topped off the performance with selections that showcased her pipes. She hit high notes with ease during a rendition of “Greenfinch and Linnet Bird” from “Sweeney Todd.” After a peppy run-through of “Why Can’t It Be Christmas Every Day,” Chenoweth finished with a powerful cover of the popular Charlie Chaplin tune, “Smile,” which she belted without a microphone while encouraging the audience to sing along.  

Known for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the original cast of “Wicked” on Broadway, Chenoweth has a storied history with the University of Connecticut. After a successful premiere performance at Jorgensen back in 2018, Jorgensen staff and Jorgensen Director Rodney Rock worked for three years to get Chenoweth back for an encore performance. Thanks to their efforts, Chenoweth made her return to a sold-out audience just weeks before the theater was forced to cancel numerous performances due to the surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.  

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