Tag Archives: glee

A decade after ‘Wicked,’ Kristin Chenoweth remains ‘popular’ — and at the top of her craft

Whoever said good things come in small packages must have been thinking of Kristin Chenoweth. At 4 feet 11 inches, the singer/actress best known for her role as Glinda the Good Witch in the original production of Wicked has a height inversely proportional to her towering talent on the stage.

On Oct. 4, the Tony Award-winner will blend personal stories along with those powerhouse vocals during her first-ever Madison appearance at Overture Center.

Chenoweth, 47, an adopted daughter and native of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, received a bachelor’s degree in musical theater and master’s in opera performance at Oklahoma City University, studying with famed vocal coach and mentor Florence Birdwell.

Chenoweth rarely slows down these days between stage, screen and television roles. Her Overture Hall appearance marks an infrequent departure that allows her to get up close and personal with fans while singing some of her favorite songs to audiences old and new. She stopped long enough to fill in WiG on her personal impressions and favorite projects.

I know you started singing at an early age. How and when did you know that you would sing professionally? I began singing in church at a young age and felt I would never leave the stage. I fell in love with ballet and theater and spent most of my extra time doing that. I also did all the normal childhood things, like the school plays and choir. I was a cheerleader and in the French club. I wanted to grow up in a normal high school environment, but I think I felt somewhere down deep I was going to work the rest of my life in show business, so I just wanted to learn and grow and have fun.  

You have a wide-ranging career onstage, in film, in the recording studio and on television. Which medium do you most enjoy working in and why? I love the feeling I get from being with an audience. There is nothing better. It’s my drug of choice. (My other one is Coca-Cola.) 

I can’t imagine not being an artist. Sometimes I think how lucky I am to get to do what I love, because so many people don’t do that and are miserable. I have a true passion for what I do and it’s never waned. If anything, that passion has grown and become more intense over the years.   

What factors do you consider when choosing new material or a new role to perform? Any role I agree to play must be multi-layered. Playing a one-note character isn’t interesting to me. I am really a “character woman.” I love playing interesting women who seem OK, but are slightly off. But the aspect I like best in a role like that is making the audience understand why someone is the way she is. It’s more complicated, but more fun.  

In the same vein, how do you define “good music?” Is it based on clinical or technical criteria, or is there a distinct emotional characteristic that must been present? I love so many types of music, so many genres.  I love opera, as it was my training and I train that way still. It’s like an Olympic athlete staying in shape. Singing everyday in some capacity is so important to me.   

I adore country music because those are my roots. Obviously, Broadway and American standards are big with me. My parents love all kinds of music and I think that influenced me. All of this and more are part of my concerts, because it represents who I am. Well maybe not rap, although I do love Eminem. There is a new rap Broadway musical called Hamilton that I’m obsessed with.  

Who had the greatest influence over you and who do you most appreciate for the life lessons you received? This is a loaded question. (Ha ha.) I hope the life lessons that I continue to learn are passed through to all my kids who I am close with. They know who they are. I hope to always be a good influence by giving positive feedback, but also telling the truth! I want all the kids I work with to follow their passion, whatever it is! A kid with self-esteem who has passion for their art is unstoppable.

My teacher Florence Birdwell showed me that. I learned a lot of my core singing technique while I was under her teaching. I learned how to prepare a song, and what songs were right for me. I also learned about some songs that weren’t right for me, just so we could work on them.

What do you consider your breakthrough performance? The role I look back on and feel happiest about was Cunégonde in Candide, the operetta by Leonard Bernstein. I worked on it throughout my whole college life, and I finally performed it with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at age 33. I was doing Wicked at the time and took a week off to do this role, which the producers had filmed for the PBS series Great Performances. I feel like all my training came into play at the exact right time with the right role. The role itself is vocal gymnastics and very hard. I also had to be a comedienne, so I loved performing it.  

An entirely new audience was introduced to Broadway and its stars through Glee. What was it like performing as guest star April Rhodes on the show? I’m just glad (Glee co-creator) Ryan Murphy made the glee club cool. It never was cool in my school. I loved getting to sing a (John) Kander and (Fred) Ebb piece, a Carrie Underwood song and song from the band Heart, all on one show. So many people of all ages learned what the musical Cabaret was and introduced that era to a new era. And now kids want to learn. This is amazing.

If you could only sing only a few songs for the rest of your life, which songs would those be? There are a few songs I will always sing, for reasons well-known to me. 

“Till There Was You” (from The Music Man) is finally back in my repertoire. I had to stop singing it for a few years and heal a broken heart.

“Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables to me is a prayer. It applies to me in a different way, a desire to bring people that were once close to me back into my life again.

Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter” is self-explanatory, and so is Dolly Parton’s “Little Sparrow.” And “All The Things You Are.” Jerome Kern is one of my favorite composers, if not the favorite.  

Finally, what can Madison fans expect from your Overture Center performance? I have never played Madison so I’m truly excited! I want to give it all to them. I want to sing everything, but I can’t! I may sing something written by someone from there.

ON STAGE

Kristin Chenoweth will perform at Overture Hall in Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, 201 State St., on Oct. 4. Tickets are $40 to $150 and can be ordered at 608-258-4141 or overturecenter.org.

Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Frank Ocean nominated for GLAAD media awards

GLAAD, the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, announced Jan. 16 the nominees for its 24th annual media awards.

The awards, according to GLAAD, “serve as a benchmark for the media industry and complement GLAAD’s work to bring LGBT images and stories to Americans.”

The nominees include:

• “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” starring Ezra Miller, Logan Lerman and Emma Watson.

• “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” starring Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson.

• “Cloud Atlas,” starring Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy.

• The TV shows “The New Normal,” “Smash,” “Glee,” “Modern Family.

• The documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”

• An interview with Bishop Gene Robinson on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

• Oprah Winfrey’s hour-long visit with Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka.

• CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360.”

• MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry.”

• Frank Ocean for his “Channel Orange” album.

The list also includes GLAAD’s first nomination for a PG-rated animated film, “ParaNorman,” which also received an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film.

Spanish-language nominees include Titulares Telemundo for an interview with openly gay boxer Orlando Cruz, news programs “Primer Impacto,” “Encuentro” and “People en Español.”

“Images and stories from the LGBT community continue to push support for equality to historic levels,” stated GLAAD president Herndon Graddick. “This year’s nominees enlighten and entertain, but also reflect a new American landscape where a growing majority accept and value their LGBT family, colleagues and friends.  Now more than ever, viewers not only accept gay and transgender characters and plot lines, they expect them – just as they both accept and expect LGBT people to be a valuable part of their everyday lives.”

The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held on March 16 at the New York Marriott Marquis; in Los Angeles on April 20 at the JW Marriott; and in San Francisco on May 11 at the Hilton San Francisco – Union Square.

Special Honorees for each city will be announced in coming weeks. 

GLAAD announced 120 nominees in 25 English-language categories, and 33 Spanish-language nominees in 8 categories. 

A list of GLAAD Media Awards nominees may be found here. 

Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo join HBO film about AIDS

Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo will star in an HBO movie adaptation of “The Normal Heart,” the play about the onset of the AIDS crisis in New York City in the early 1980s.

HBO said that Ryan Murphy, maker of “Eat Pray Love” and the TV show “Glee,” will direct the film.

Larry Kramer’s play about the men who joined him to help form the Gay Men’s Health Crisis debuted in 1985 and was brought to Broadway again in 2011, winning a Tony Award for best revival.

Roberts will portray Dr. Emma Brookner, a paraplegic doctor who treated several of the earliest AIDS victims.

Ruffalo plays Ned Weeks, who sought answers when he saw the disease begin to kill many gay people he knew.

What’s happening at the Democratic National Convention today

The Sept. 4 schedule for the Democratic National Convention begins with state delegation meetings at host hotels in the morning, followed by caucus and council meetings at the Charlotte Convention Center.

The women’s caucus was meeting in the morning and the LGBT caucus and senior and rural councils were meeting this afternoon in Uptown Charlotte.

After a late-afternoon break, the convention begins at 5 p.m. at the Times Warner Cable Arena, starting with a call to order by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee and a U.S. representative from Florida.

An invocation will follow, then the presentation of colors by the Disabled American Veterans’ Stanly County Chapter 12 Honor Guard, the Pledge of Allegiance by third-graders at W.R. O’Dell Elementary School, the national anthem by Amber Riley of “Glee” and a welcome by Stephen J. Kerrigan, the DNC committee CEO.

Business involves reports from DNC committees, including Bishop Vashti McKenzie, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, Los Angeles Mayor and DNC chair Antonio R. Villaraigosa.

Remarks also will be made by U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, DNC treasurer Andrew Tobias and DNC secretary Alice Germond.

The roll call for attendance is set for 6 p.m., followed by the presentation of the platform by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee of California, retired Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy and New Jersey Mayor Cory A. Booker.

Evening speakers include North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, Ryan Case, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez of Texas, U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez of New York, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Ohio firefighter Doug Stern, U.S. Sen. candidate Tim Kaine of Virginia, Charlotte Mayor Anthony R. Foxx, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Ken Salazar, U.S. House candidate Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, singer Ledisi, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, openly gay U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, National Abortion Rights Action League – Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan, Nate Davis, U.S. House candidate Tammy Duckworth, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, Stacey Lihn, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra of California, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius, Chicago Mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, actor Kal Penn, Obama relatives Craig Robinson and Maya Soetoro-ng, women’s rights leader Lilly Ledbetter, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, U.S. House candidate

Joaquin Castro of Texas, keynote speaker Julián Castro, Elaine Brye and first lady Michelle Obama.

Jena Lee Nardella of Blood: Water Mission will deliver the benediction.

Comic crossover: Archie kids to mix with ‘Glee’ gang

The kids from Riverdale are no strangers to high school angst, worries about fitting in or music. Neither are the teens from “Glee.”

Now, Archie, Betty, Veronica and resident boy genius Dilton Doiley will match wits – and maybe a vocal or two – with the likes of Finn Hudson, Kurt Hummel and Rachel Berry in the pages of “Archie Comics,” said Jon Goldwater, the co-chief executive officer.

Goldwater unveiled the planned collaboration on Monday, ahead of Wednesday’s start of Comic-Con in San Diego.

He said the crossover between the Fox show and the comic book is set for late this year or in early 2013, and is being written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, one of the television show’s writers. It features multiple characters from the long-running comic book and the Fox show now in its third year. Dan Parent is illustrating the story.

“I’ve become friendly with Roberto – he’s just a genius writer,” said Goldwater, who met the playwright last year at New York Comic Con when he stopped by Archie Comic Publications Inc.’s booth. “He and I were shooting the breeze.”

That visit sparked a friendship and, ultimately, the idea for the crossover.

“It turns out he’s been a fan of Archie for years. His most recent Halloween costume? He was dressed as Archie!” Goldwater said.

For now, says Goldwater, the plot of the four-issue story arc in “Archie Comics” is a closely held secret, but it does involve parallel dimensions, dancing and some serious singing, too.

It’s also the latest step for the publisher, which has expanded its pop cultural offerings beyond just Jughead, Midge and Mr. Weatherbee.

In the past two years, Archie Comics has brought in an openly-gay character, Kevin Keller; been visited by the band Kiss; and seen Archie marry Valerie, the bassist for Josie and the Pussycats, and have a daughter with her.

“Those have reintroduced a lot of people back to ‘Archie,’” Goldwater said. “And it’s opened a whole new world of people coming to ‘Archie’ for the first time, too.”

Goldwater said that in the course of his conversation with Aguirre-Sacasa it was evident both “Glee” and “Archie” had some common ground despite coming from decidedly different mediums, including a diverse array of characters, conditions and concerns.

“‘Glee’ is courageous in their story lines and how they represent their characters, how they represent the high school situation,” he said, noting that it’s similar in the world of Archie, too.

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How Idina Menzel’s star keeps rising

Being dropped by her record label was one of the best things that ever happened to Broadway star Idina Menzel. The experience was painful at the time, but it empowered the performer to redirect her energy to the stage, where she’s achieved an enviable career as both a singer and an actor.

“I had just finished ‘Rent’ and thought I was going to be a big rock star,” says the singer/songwriter, who earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance as the revolutionary Maureen Johnson in the groundbreaking show. “After just one album, Hollywood Records dropped me.”

The move forced Menzel, who turned 41 on May 30, to reexamine her career. After a few fallow years, she found her way back to Broadway and to her 2003 Tony Award-winning role as the green-skinned Elphaba in “Wicked.”

“I learned that I loved the theater and I always feel good about coming back,” she says. “I feel I belong there.”

“Defying Gravity,” Menzel’s breakout number from the Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman show, will no doubt be part of the song list June 20, when the celebrated performer brings her “Barefoot at the Symphony” show to Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Menzel has performed the mix of pop songs and show tunes numerous times, often with composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch at the helm. In March, she released both a CD and DVD of the performance that was recorded at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

“The Milwaukee show will be the result of a year-and-a- half of concertizing,” Menzel says. “There will be a lot of new material, but I’m still barefoot. I really can’t stand singing in high heels.” Menzel may well have been barefoot when she first started singing as a little girl on her native Long Island, N.Y. At 15 she got her first “professional” job as a wedding singer and worked her way through New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts by singing at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

“After graduation, a friend helped me audition for ‘Rent’ and I got the job almost as a fluke,” Menzel says.

Composer Jonathan Larson’s rock adaptation of Puccini’s “La Boheme” opened off Broadway on Jan. 26, 1996. Larson died the day before of an aortic dissection caused by undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Posthumously, he won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for the hit musical.

Larson’s death profoundly affected the cast of “Rent,” Menzel says, helping to create a strong work ethic among the performers.

“Jonathan’s passing kept us all very grounded,” says Menzel, who ended up marrying “Rent” costar Taye Diggs. “The work ethic was incredible because we had to be true to his vision.”

Her work ethic drove Menzel to a high level of versatility as a performer, making it difficult for producers to categorize and market her. Her return to the stage opposite Kristen Chenowith in “Wicked” helped cement her identity, both as a performer and as a woman.

“Elphaba has given me a higher profile and I love playing her,” Menzel says. “As women, we’re often afraid of our own power and fear alienating people. The character mirrors that aspect, harnesses it and turns it into something beautiful.”

Elphaba is one of Menzel’s favorite characters, but so is Vera, the alcoholic, codependent character she played in

“Ask the Dust,” which she describes as “the best movie you’ve never seen.”

“Vera is the opposite of Elphaba – she’s a mess,” says Menzel, who acted opposite Colin Farrell in the Robert Towne film. “I like her because I am known for playing empowered women, so it was nice to explore that balance. I found my confidence as an actor in that role.”

Menzel’s best-known role may be that of Shelby Corcoran, the driven coach of Vocal Adrenaline on the hit FOX television show “Glee.” Her experience on the program has been unlike most Hollywood productions, she said.

“It was a wonderful experience and great to be surrounded by so many talented people in one place – just like in New York,” she said. “The show is groundbreaking and courageous in the issues it tackles and is giving a new generation of young people a chance to be themselves.”

Such empowerment is part and parcel of Menzel’s career, one that’s been inspired, like those of so many of her contemporaries, by the music of Barbra Streisand. “I was inspired by Barbra’s incredible range, her breath control, and especially her emotional grasp of her material,” Menzel says.            “ ‘A Star is Born’ was the first record album I ever owned.”

She’s lived up to the title.

On stage

Idina Menzel’s “Barefoot at the Symphony” tour stops in Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on June 20. Details: www.marcuscenter.org.

Obama rallies LGBT supporters in LA

President Barack Obama basked in the support of his gay and lesbian backers June 6, revving up an enthusiastic crowd with a pledge not to block any attempt to roll back rights that gay Americans have gained under his administration.

With his public embrace of same-sex marriage just weeks old, a standing ovation with sustained applause greeted the president at a 600-person campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles for gay and lesbian supporters.

The president, nearing the end of a lengthy day of West Coast fundraising, appeared to feed off the energy of a crowd that included a handful of celebrities, including comedian Ellen DeGeneres and the singer Cher.

Making the case for his re-election, Obama said he would refuse to allow anyone to attempt to reinstate the military’s ban on openly gay service members, a measure the president had fought to repeal.

“That’s not something I will tolerate,” he said.

Some Republicans have said they would back the reinstatement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law. Mitt Romney, Obama’s Republican rival in the presidential race, is not among them.

Obama ticked through what he called his presidential “to-do” list, saying “we’ve gotten some stuff done over the last three-and-a-half years.” After launching into a passionate defense of his contested health care overhaul, he referred back to the to-do list. “Check,” he said.

The president expected to raise more than $5 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party during fundraisers in San Francisco and Los Angeles June 6-7.

Events in Los Angeles included a fundraiser at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel and then a private gathering at the Beverly Hills home of “Glee” creator Ryan Murphy.

Attendees at Murphy’s home included Julia Roberts, Reese Witherspoon, Banana Republic/Gap Inc. president Jack Calhoun, Jane Lynch and HBO executive Michael Lombardo.

Obama announced there, “I will not be singing tonight.”

He told the audience of about 70 people, “The key in 2012 is going to be how badly do we want it. Are we willing to fight for that vision with even greater determination than we did in 2008.”

Earlier June 6 during an event in San Francisco, Obama conceded that people around the country are wondering if he can keep his promise to build an economy designed for the long term. But he blasted opponents as offering nothing more than finger-pointing as a platform.

Obama told donors at the $5,000 per person fundraiser that “the other side” doesn’t have any new ideas.

“And because they don’t have any new ideas, what they will do is spend 500, 700, a billion dollars in negative ads and their simple message will be: This is someone else’s fault and that’s enough reason for you to vote for us,” he said.

“And,” he added, “if we don’t answer them, that can work.”

In “Virginia or Iowa or North Carolina or California, all across the country,” Obama said, “there are a lot of folks who are still wondering—are we going to be able to fully deliver on that promise of a country that is thriving and has an economy that is built to last?”

The president was introduced by Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Mays, a former outfielder for the New York Giants and San Francisco Giants.

Following his fundraising drive in California, Obama was heading to Nevada on June 7 for a speech at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. The president planned to announce new steps to help college students repay their loans and his efforts to jumpstart the economy.

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Radcliffe appears in PSA for LGBT hotline

An LGBT youth hotline’s new public service announcement featuring Daniel Radcliffe premieres tonight on Fox during the network’s hit series “Glee.”

The 30-second spot encourages LGBT youth to call the Trevor Lifeline if they need support or are considering suicide. The number is 866-488-7386.

The spot also will run on Hulu in conjunction with of “Glee.”

“We are very excited to premiere this life-saving PSA featuring Daniel Radcliffe during prime time on one of the most popular shows on television,” said David McFarland, CEO of The Trevor Project. “The opportunity to reach millions of LGBTQ youth, their families and friends during a show like ‘Glee’ with a message to reinforce that it is OK to reach out for help when you need it can truly help save lives.”

This is Radcliffe’s second PSA for The Trevor Project Lifeline. The actor has been involved with the organization since 2009, dedicating much of his public support to raising awareness for the 24/7 free and confidential crisis line.

“My work with The Trevor Project has taught me that the best thing I can do as a straight ally is show my support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Radcliffe said. “When we let someone know that we accept them for who they are and that we are safe to talk to, we can help save lives. It’s as simple as that.”

The PSA was produced by Emmett Loverde, a Los Angeles-based writer-director and cinematographer.

For more about the project go to TheTrevorProject.org.

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Alec Baldwin, Julia Roberts to star in film version of ‘Normal Heart’

Alec Baldwin and Julia Roberts have signed on to star in the film version of Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning autobiographical play “The Normal Heart,” which follows the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The two stars join Mark Ruffalo, who was already cast as protagonist Ned Weeks, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Baldwin will play Weeks’ brother and Roberts will play the doctor who understands the seriousness of the mystery sickness.

The roles are meaty. The 2011 Broadway production won awards for Ellen Barkin in the party Roberts is taking and John Benjamin Hickey in the role that Ruffalo will play on the big screen.

“Glee” creator Ryan Murphy is directing.

The play debuted off-Broadway in 1985 and was revived in 2004 in Los Angeles and London. It debuted on Broadway last year.

“White Collar” star Matt Bomer and Jim Parsons, who won an Emmy for “The Big Bang Theory,” are also part of the cast.

Baldwin is a strong equality supporter who lobbied New York lawmakers to back the bill that legalized same-sex marriage in the state.

Murphy is at the forefront of bringing issues of gay equality into the national conversation, The Hollywood Reporter says. His TV show “Glee” features several gay characters and story lines, as does his cable hit “American Horror Story.”

Rachel’s gay dads making ‘Glee’ appearance

The “Glee” audience will celebrate Valentine’s Day with the “Heart” episode and get to actually see Rachel Berry’s two dads.

TVLine is reporting this week that the gay dads – Hiram and LeRoy Berry – so often discussed but not seen on the small screen will be portrayed by Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Only once have viewers seen an image of the dads – in a photograph for the pilot.

Goldblum is a veteran film and TV actor with a background in theater.

Mitchell is a Broadway veteran, with a Tony for “Kiss Me Kate” and some TV experience.