Chenoweth will star as the title character in “I Am Anne Hutchinson,” which is making its world premiere at the Music Center at Strathmore on April 23 in North Bethesda, Maryland. Billed as “part choral work, part theater piece,” the show is based on the life of Anne Hutchinson, a colonial American woman who many consider to be the mother of women’s rights and religious tolerance in the country.
In what's been called Strathmore's "most ambitious project" yet, “Hutchinson” will be presented alongside Lippa’s “I Am Harvey Milk” as a two-part performance cycle. Originally commissioned by the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, this piece follows the life of the first openly gay man to hold public office in California from his early days to his assassination in 1978, and has previously played to capacity crowds in New York and Los Angeles.
Lippa will join Chenoweth in both works -- which involve a total cast of 140 actors and signers. The Grammy and Tony-nominated composer will play Gov. John Winthrop, the founder of Massachusetts, in “I Am Anne Hutchinson,” and then return in the title role of “I Am Harvey Milk.” In the latter, Chenoweth portrays Milk’s mother.
Although the lives of Hutchinson and Milk are separated by more than 300 years, Lippa told The Huffington Post that he feels both historical figures have “always belonged together.”
“Change is slow. Women still don’t earn what men earn,” he said. “Gay rights are still violated and legislated away in our country. If you believe that progress is a relay race – a baton handed from person to person – then there is no Harvey Milk without Anne Hutchinson.”
Neither project shies away from tragedy, given that Hutchinson was excommunicated from the Puritan church in 1638 and Milk was slain. Likening both pieces to the Broadway musical “Evita,” Lippa stressed that Strathmore audiences are in for an entertaining, rather than heavy-handed, evening that mashes classical music with modern sounds.
The composer, who is openly gay, told HuffPost he doesn’t feel any particular pressure to portray Milk — a beloved icon in the queer community — in any specific light, noting that he only aims “to be true to the humanity in the work and in the message.”
“We’re not aiming for facts here; we’re aiming for feelings,” he said. “I hope the feelings convey the great passion I share with Harvey in standing up for equality for all.”
As for the best part about working with Chenoweth, Lippa quipped, “Arby’s. She loves Arby’s.”
"I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk" plays the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland on April 23 and 24. For more information, head here.