American actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth graced The Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara with a stunning cabaret-style show titled “For the Girls” on Nov. 5, 2023.
Adopted and raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Chenoweth performed gospel songs for her local church during her youth. Her passion for singing eventually led her to pursue a career in theater, appearing in multiple regional and off-Broadway productions before getting her big break as Sally in the Broadway revival of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” in 1999.
Now regarded as one of the most iconic modern Broadway actresses, Chenoweth is the definition of a star. After winning the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role as Sally, she went on to take over the entertainment world. Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda in the hit Broadway musical “Wicked” in 2003. In television, she garnered critical acclaim as Olive Snook in the 2007 to 2009 series “Pushing Daisies” and guest starred as April Rhodes on “Glee” in 2010 and 2011.
As the clock counted down to the show, sharply dressed individuals made their way to their seats. Audience members were of all ages, an element representative of Chenoweth’s timelessness and appeal to a large audience. Groups of college students, mother-daughter duos and older couples all gathered for a night of pure joy and music.
Murmurs of excitement continued to grow until the lights dimmed. The room went silent. The piano began to play, and then a voice from off-stage said, “Hello Santa Barbara! Are you ready to have some fun tonight?”
The crowd roared with applause as Chenoweth walked out on stage singing a cover of “I’m A Woman” by Peggy Lee. Her confident strut made it clear that she was here to not just perform but deliver the show of a lifetime. Dressed in an all-black, sparkly, long-sleeved bodysuit paired with stunning black boots, Chenoweth was radiant. She was born to be in the spotlight.
Her rendition of the 1963 song was packed with charisma, sharing the stage with supporting vocalists, Marissa Rosen and Melinda Doolittle. The three women added some choreography to the song, walking in sync to the left and right as the band played on.
When the song ended, Chenoweth smiled at the crowd and casually asked, “How you doing?” as if she didn’t just deliver a talent-packed performance.
Her level of comfort in the spotlight was incredible, constantly interacting with audience members and cracking jokes between songs while sipping from The Habit Burger Grill take-out cup (one of her go-to food spots whenever she’s in Santa Barbara). Moments like this fostered a close relationship between performer and audience, something that made the show truly special.
After entertaining the crowd for a little longer, Chenoweth introduced herself, acknowledging the variety of audience members in her show by saying, “And for you straight men, my name is Kristin Chenoweth. Thank you for coming to my show.”
The setlist featured multiple covers of beloved classics. “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, “Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland and “The Way We Were” by Barbara Streisand were all covered by Chenoweth, making her show truly “For the Girls.”
The show also featured some originals by Chenoweth herself. In a heartfelt moment, Chenoweth gave a fond shout-out to her father and sang her 2001 original “Fathers and Daughters.”
But perhaps the most fiery song was her performance of “Popular,” a song from her break-out musical “Wicked” in honor of its 20th anniversary. Chenoweth’s role as Glinda helped skyrocket her career, making her a household name and garnering her a Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. As one of the biggest Broadway musicals of all time, “Wicked” has taken on multiple casts since its original run. Yet even 20 years later, it is clear that Chenoweth embodies Glinda. Full of spunk, sass and pure talent, Chenoweth wowed the crowd.
The performance was fiery in a literal sense as well. Halfway through her performance, the fire alarm began beeping. The crowd began to whisper in confusion as Chenoweth stopped singing to analyze the situation. Yet Chenoweth, a seasoned professional, was not fazed in the slightest. She laughed and continued to entertain the audience, easing any fear and creating a comfortable atmosphere, all while the alarm continued to beep in the background.
Chenoweth waited for an all-clear from the venue, and picked up right where she left off as if nothing had happened. She finished her rendition to roaring applause and a standing ovation. “That was the most interesting ‘Popular’ I have ever done,” remarked Chenoweth as the crowd cheered. “I’ll tell it all over the world.”
Above all else, Chenoweth proved herself to be a class act. Despite being one of the biggest Broadway stars, her humility shone throughout the performance. She took multiple opportunities to recognize her talented vocalists, allowing them to sing full verses and even an entire song. In the words of Chenoweth, “I don’t call them my backup singers, I call them my teammates.”
Chenoweth also spoke about her summer program, Kristin Chenoweth’s Broadway Bootcamp. The summer camp takes place in Broken Arrow and is designed to help inspire and train young people in the world of theater.
She then brought one of her students on stage, 17-year old Maile Kai Merrick, where she performed a stunning cover of “The Light in the Piazza” from the 2005 musical of the same name. The crowd was captivated throughout the entire performance, marveling at Merrick’s impressive vocals and illuminating stage presence. When the song ended, Merrick received roaring applause and a standing ovation.
Before Chenoweth concluded her performance, she spoke with the audience one last time to thank them for watching. “Y’all could be anywhere, but you chose to be here tonight.”
“What I’ve given you tonight is just me,” said Chenoweth as she slightly teared up. “Not everyone gets to do what they love, and I’m grateful for that.”
She then sang the final song on her setlist, “Reasons for Hope,” which was written by her friends Crystal Monee Hall and Mary-Mitchell Campbell. Before performing, Chenoweth told the crowd, “[This song] is the only way I know how to leave this audience. With love, peace and happiness.” The crowd was captivated as Chenoweth sang the poignant lyrics, “We got reasons for hope / Reasons to sing / We can bring everyone together.”
The crowd erupted as Chenoweth and her band took their bows, and they cheered as she walked off stage. And in true legend fashion, she marched right back on shortly after to perform her encore, which was a cover of “Smile” by Nat King Cole. Accompanied only by the piano, Chenoweth’s eyes widened as she realized she forgot the lyrics to the song. Instead of panicking, she simply sang a perfectly in-tune impression of the fire alarm from earlier. The crowd laughed, remembering the fond shared experience that made the night unforgettable.
And the cherry-on-top? As she walked off the stage a final time, the actual fire alarm began beeping again, serving as proof that Chenoweth’s iconic career is still piping hot.