Also Credited As:Kristin Chenowith
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|July 24, 1968|
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Kristin Chenoweth was born on July 24, 1968. She was adopted at birth and raised in the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow, OK where, from an early age, she wowed churchgoers with her unusually developed (and loud) soprano. She was soon receiving singing invitations from other local churches, and at the age of 12, performed "I'm Four Foot Eleven and Going to Heaven" for the entire Southern Baptist Conference. Incidentally, the performer would only reach a maximum height of 4'11". Chenoweth enjoyed doing school plays, but with the accolades her singing was receiving coupled with her love of contemporary Christian, country and opera, she enrolled at Oklahoma City University as a voice major. Her focus was on opera performance, but she also spent considerable time acting, appearing in college productions of classic musical dramas like "Oklahoma." To partially finance her education, she entered local beauty pageants and was named Miss Oklahoma City University and a runner-up for the 1991 title of Miss Oklahoma.
She went on to earn a Masters degree in Opera Performance, after which she auditioned for New York's famed Metropolitan Opera and was awarded the title of Most Promising Up and Coming Singer. The title came with a full scholarship to Philadelphia's Academy of Vocal Arts, but two weeks prior to beginning her studies there in the fall of 1993, she tagged along with a friend who was auditioning for an off-Broadway adaptation of the Marx Brothers musical, "Animal Crackers." The unknown firecracker won over the producers, who offered her a supporting role despite her non-union status and lack of an agent or manager. With two enormous and distinctly different opportunities in front of her, Chenoweth had to make an important decision. Ultimately she knew that arias would not be enough to fulfill her passions for song, dance and comedy, so she accepted the stage role.
Work at various regional companies followed, including leading roles off-Broadway and a run in the perennial tourist favorite "The Fantasticks." Chenoweth earned her first New York Times nod ("delightful") for a Roundabout Theater production of Moliere's farcical "Scapin," all the while waiting not-so-patiently for that big moment when she would hit Broadway. Countless directors recognized something special in Chenoweth, encouraging her that her breakthrough was imminent even if it was not in their particular production. Chenoweth finally made it to the Great White Way in the spring of 1997 when she originated the role of Precious McGuire in the musical, "Steel Pier," earning a Theater World award for her pipes and her portrayal of a Depression era newlywed and dance marathon contestant with big dreams. It was not far from Broadway to Lincoln Center, where Chenoweth performed next in a City Center Encores! Production of the Gershwin musical, "Strike Up the Band." In 1999, Kristin Chenoweth rocketed to Broadway stardom and national recognition with her role as Sally Brown in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Chenoweth's show-stopping number, "My New Philosophy," which was written specifically for her, inspired Variety to declare her the only cast member who seemed "completely comfortable in the skin" of a little child and prompted The New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley to suggest hers was "one of those break-out performances that send careers skyward." They were right on the money, as Chenoweth ended up taking home a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and also had the honor of hosting the televised awards that year.
She followed up her high-profile win with a co-starring role in the comedy "Epic Proportions" before the television networks began courting Chenoweth and her talents. AMC cast her in an ill-fated period drama series before Chenoweth strutted her stuff as Lily St. Regis in an adaptation of "Annie" for ABC (1999). NBC created "Kristin" (NBC, 2001), a loosely biographical sitcom in which she portrayed a small-town Oklahoman working as an assistant to a real estate mogul while trying to break into Broadway. Despite Chenoweth's refreshing energy and sparkling presence, the mid-season replacement was cancelled after only a few episodes. The same year, Chenoweth realized another lifelong dream with the release of her debut album Let Yourself Go, a collection of standards from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers and others. Chenoweth split her time between television and stage appearances over the next several years, having fun as Miss Noodle on "Sesame Street" (PBS, 1969- ) and playing opposite Matthew Broderick in an ABC version of "The Music Man" (2003) before hitting center stage for her most important role yet: the crowd-pleasing role of Glinda the Good Witch in the popular Oz-inspired musical, "Wicked," for which she earned Tony and Critic's Desk nominations. Now a bi-coastal whirling dervish of entertainment, within the year, Chenoweth was appearing regularly as spitfire Press Secretary Annabeth Schott on the Washington drama "The West Wing" (and dating the show's writer Aaron Sorkin) and back in New York sharing the stage with the New York Philharmonic in "Candide," which garnered rave reviews.
Hollywood finally came knocking at the comedienne's door, offering her supporting roles in "Bewitched" (2005), "The Pink Panther" (2006), and "RV" (2006). Unfortunately, only "RV" hinted at her greater talents with its bursts of tambourine playing and joyful singing from Chenoweth and her ironically happy-clappy family of vacationers. Some viewers might have found the role not so ironic in light of Chenoweth's recent appearance on Pat Robertson's "The 700 Club" to promote her faith-based album, As I Am (2005). The innocent publicity stop cultivated backlash from Chenoweth's loyal gay following and prompted her to clarify her position as a liberal Christian with a pro-gay rights position. A scheduled invitation to perform at the "Women of Faith" conference was subsequently cancelled by the organization. After a fruitless attempt to smooth everyone's ruffled feathers Chenoweth apparently decided she was through trying to be all things to all audiences and posed for a skimpy photo shoot with FHM magazine and took a role as Annette Bening's lover in "Running With Scissors" (2006). Around the same time, ex-boyfriend Aaron Sorkin , then helming "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" (Fox, 2006-07), added to the mix by further confusing Chenoweth's image by basing the character Harriet Hayes and her sometimes unflattering features on his ex.
Back in New York, Chenoweth again joined forces with City Center Encores in 2006 with a rave-reviewed revival of "The Apple Tree," for which she was required to play three completely different characterizations of Eve in Eden. Producers commented that the show had not been staged in over 40 years because until Chenoweth and her soaring vocal talents came along, there was not anyone who would have been able to fill the role. Critics agreed, nominating her for a Drama Desk award in 2007. Shortly after the show closed, Chenoweth jetted back to New York to begin a recurring role on the fantastical dramedy "Pushing Daisies" (ABC, 2007-09). The show about a man who can bring the dead back to life instantly generated buzz for its sheer originality, and for Chenoweth, it finally offered an opportunity to bring her sense of quirky comedy to television audiences. Indeed, the show was a good match for the actress - she earned Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in 2008 and 2009; the second in spite of ABC canceling the series that year. She would go on to win the 2009 Emmy, commenting, "I'm not employed now so I'd like to be on 'Mad Men.' I also like 'The Office' and '24,"' said Chenoweth, as she accepted for her canceled series. "Thank you so much to the academy for recognizing a show that's no longer on the air."
In the fall of 2009, Chenoweth took on a voice acting role on the satirical animated series "Sit Down, Shut Up" (Fox, 2009-), where she gave a hilarious performance as a hippie schoolteacher. She went back to her musical roots to play a former star recruited by glee club director Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison) on an episode of "Glee" (Fox, 2009- ), which saw her sing three songs and earned her an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. Meanwhile, Chenoweth returned to Broadway with "Promises, Promises" (2010-11), a musical based on the Billy Wilder comedy, "The Apartment" (1960), and followed with a small part in the comedy feature "You Again" (2010), starring Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jaime Lee Curtis and Betty White. Back on television in a regular series role, Chenoweth was a former ugly duckling turned plastic surgery-enhanced nemesis to Leslie Bibb on "GCB" (ABC, 2012), a short-lived series based on the popular book, Good Christian Bitches. As that series was canceled due to poor ratings, Chenoweth moved on to a recurring role on the acclaimed drama, "The Good Wife" (CBS, 2009- ), to play a political reporter. But in July 2012, the actress was injured by a piece of lighting equipment that was knocked over by a gust of wind. Chenoweth struck her head as she hit the ground and was apparently injured bad enough for her to step away from the role a month later, because she was still recovering from her injuries. Despite the setback, Chenoweth remained hopeful that she would return when she could.