“Women: take charge,” Kristin Chenoweth writes in the liner notes of “For The Girls,” her new album. “Honor the women who faithfully stand with you, beside you, each and every day. Ignite a revolution for the women who will rule tomorrow.”
It’s a pointed message coming from Chenoweth, beloved for roles in Broadway musicals like “Wicked” and on television in “The West Wing” and “Pushing Daisies.” But it befits “For The Girls,” which has been dubbed her “female empowerment” record. It’s a collection of 12 songs originally performed by Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Carole King and other era-defining female artists.
To celebrate the release of “For The Girls,” Chenoweth teamed up with her longtime director, Richard Jay-Alexander, and music director Mary-Mitchell Campbell for eight residency-style concerts on Broadway starting Friday. The Emmy- and Tony-winning actor and singer told HuffPost she’s most excited to perform her new material, though old favorites like “Popular” from “Wicked” will be featured, albeit in a refreshed format.
“My challenge was to tip my hat to Judy, Barbra, Carole, [but] to take every song and ‘Kristin-ize’ it,” she said. “Vocally, I have to go my own way. And you know what? Some of my versions aren’t going to be people’s favorites. Some of my audience will go, ‘Who is Eva Cassidy? Let me find her.’ That’s what I want to happen, too.”
The “For The Girls” shows will be staged at New York’s Nederlander Theatre and kick off a busy holiday season for Chenoweth. On Dec. 7, she’ll star opposite Scott Wolf in Hallmark’s “A Christmas Love Story.” Nine days later, PBS will broadcast “Angels Among Us,” a live recording of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s 2018 Christmas concert in which she was a featured guest artist.
More than many artists to emerge from liberal-leaning Broadway, the Oklahoma-raised Chenoweth has long been embraced by fans of varying socioeconomic and political backgrounds. Both the Hallmark and PBS projects highlight what’s been a frequent point of conversation throughout her career: that she’s both a devout Christian and an outspoken ally to the LGBTQ community.
Chenoweth co-wrote an original song for “A Christmas Love Story” with country artist Chely Wright, who is a lesbian. And when her Mormon Tabernacle Choir performance was announced last year, a Utah-based advocacy group urged her to back out, citing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ opposition to same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ rights.
It was Chenoweth’s idea to collaborate with Wright, who saw her record sales plummet after she came out in 2010. With regard to “Angels Among Us,” she explained, “It was important for me to do that as a woman of faith and an LGBTQ advocate. We don’t have a lot of the same beliefs, which is exactly why we should be together. We both can learn from each other.”
As for the message she’d like her latest work to relay to women specifically, Chenoweth ― who is 4 feet, 11 inches tall ― recalled how her height nicked her confidence as a performer early on.
“I’m a petite woman. I was never, ever the tallest person in my class; I’ve always been the runt,” she said. “It wasn’t until I opened my mouth to sing that people took me seriously.”
Fortunately for the world, her powerhouse talent won out, reminding her to “always lead with your gifts.”