“People are going crazy over it,” Kristin Chenoweth told me over the phone from a break in the filming of an episode of the CBS comedy Mom.
The Broadway and television star was talking about reaction to the news of a new musical based on the 1992 cult film classic Death Becomes Her, which starred Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn. “I think we’re going to be doing it right,” says the actress, who will be playing the Streep role. Chenoweth was only too happy to say the role’s iconic line: “Now a warning?”
After starring in musicals such as You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (for which she earned a Tony Award) and Wicked (Tony nomination), can she tell a future hit or not?
“The answer is no,” she says, “but what I’ve learned is I’ve got to do what pleases me and what is going to make me better — and have fun, too. Those are the qualities I think about now when deciding on doing stuff. Yeah, I want it to be a big hit and obviously if I think something’s going to be a stinker I’m not going to do it, but to me this sounds like it’s just right.”
Having starred in On the 20th Century, Promises, Promises, The Apple Tree and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever on Broadway, are there others — hmmm, perhaps Jerry Herman musicals — she’d like to do?
“If I don’t get to come down those red steps as Dolly Levi [Hello, Dolly!] one day in my life I’m going to be mad. Dolly and Mame are two parts I feel that are definitely in my future — but it might be a while.”
That’s because she’s busy developing new work for herself — a television series, The Real Fairy Godmother, for ABC, and a new musical based on televangelist Tammy Faye Baker — as well as voicing one of the leads in the new My Little Pony movie. She estimates that Death Becomes Her won’t be up and running for another two years. (The creative team hadn’t even been announced at the time we talked.)
And then there are the concerts she performs around the country, including one on March 24 at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts on the UConn campus in Storrs.
“The show features songs from women who have inspired me, which gives me permission to do a lot of different kinds of songs and honor women that I love,” she says. And something from Wicked, too? She laughs. “I’d be killed if I don’t.”
Carole Leads, Sarah Follows
How do you describe Carole King’s voice, the peerless sound that created a 1970s sensation with her Tapestry album?
I thought I’d ask Sarah Bockel, who is starring in the tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, which will play New Haven’s Shubert Theatre March 6-11.
“Her sound is easy for me to replicate because I grew up listening to her,” the Chicago-raised actress says. But when she performs she doesn’t exactly duplicate King. “It’s half me and half Carole. It’s a balancing act.”
Bockel describes King’s voice as really “a raw, untrained sound that a lot of people can identify with, full of simplicity, emotion and warmth. It’s also very easy to sing along to it.”
Some in the audience do just that, though she says that on stage, “I can’t hear anybody in the audience — but I love when they feel so moved to do so.”
As soon as the opening chords start to So Far Away, or It’s Too Late or the lyric begins to Where You Lead (I Will Follow), she says the audience is hooked. “Come on, anyone can identify with that.”
Yale Rep’s New Boundaries series will bring in Sleep, based on Haruki Murakami’s short story, to the Iseman Theater March 1-3 at 8 p.m. The show is adapted for the stage by Naomi Iizuka and devised and directed by Rachel Dickstein and Ripe Time theater company.
The story centers on a housewife who has a terrifying dream and subsequently stops sleeping, and, in this sleep-deprived world, imagines all sorts of experiences.
In this sensory-driven production, Dickstein explores what happens when sleep gets disrupted. “The piece was written with such a beautiful slippage between what was reality and what was fantasy and what was a dream and what was real — or a nightmare or freeing.”
The premise was a good match “for the kind of theater that I make which often deals with interior landscapes” and lends itself to the real and surreal sound, design, lighting and visuals that characterize Ripe Time productions.
Personally, Dickstein says she is a light sleeper. “I tend to have thoughts running through my mind as I try to get to sleep.” But yes, the show has “haunted me in my dreams. I’m a visual director and when I think about how something might look or feel on stage, sometimes they come to me unconsciously.”
Now to step into Sherlock Holmes’ shoes for a moment. Or should I say, to put on the deerstalker hat — not to mention the calabash pipe (which legendary actor William Gillette made iconic, not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).
That’s the job actor Alex Moggridge faces when he plays the famed detective in Ken Ludwig’s Baskerville at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven through March 25.
“When I did the audition I was basically imitating my English uncle,” he says, laughing. “But I also have all these resources from so many other actors over the years that I can totally steal while making it my own.”
Moggridge grew up watching Jeremy Brett in the BBC version. “But I also loved John Gielgud’s radio version of it which also had Ralph Richardson as Watson.”
And the tone of his Sherlock? “This shouldn’t be a send-up of the character,” he says. “Whatever it will become will be an honest exploration of what a delightful, enigmatic, obsessive character that Holmes is.”
And will he have Holmes’ iconic look?
“I’m not sure yet but there will definitely be some pipe smoking.”
Mark Your Calendars…
… Tony Kushner will speak at Yale Rep in New Haven on March 9 at 4 p.m. Whenever this Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winner speaks, he makes you smarter by just listening. This time it’s on the subject of copyright and collaboration in the theater. A new production of his Angels in America opens on Broadway on March 25.
… Also on March 9, Yale Rep and Long Wharf Theatre host the New Haven Regional August Wilson monologue competition at 7 p.m. at Long Wharf. Area high school students will compete and two winners will be sent to the national competition in New York City May 7 at the August Wilson Theatre.
This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.
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