Reprinted from late editions of yesterday's Globe.
Kristin Chenoweth sashayed onto the stage at Symphony Hall Thursday night to the sassy strains of "Let Yourself Go" and proceeded to take Irving Berlin's good advice. The Broadway star loosed more musicality, more personality, more sizzle and dazzle than seems possible from a 4-foot-11-inch sprite. She may have lost her Tony last weekend to "Wicked" costar Idina Menzel, but the girl won a hall full of hearts in Boston with a luminous and joyful night of show music.
Dressed in a sparkly black dress and armed with two versatile male props used to great comedic effect, Chenoweth followed the cheeky opening number with a trio of Jerome Kern songs -- "Bill" and "Nobody Else But Me" (both from "Showboat") and "Why Was I Born" (from "Sweet Adeline") -- that showcased her wonderful range as an actress and vocalist.
She introduced the medley with a personal recollection -- of showing up in New York City with a notebook full of Kern while the other girls trotted out audition tunes from "Rent." And indeed, Chenoweth is one of the few modern stage performers with the taste, training, and sheer moxie to pull off such an unfashionable punch with both youthful style and classic grace. A natural chameleon, she shifted effortlessly from innocent ingenue to ditzy screwball to operatic powerhouse, imbuing the old-fashioned numbers with fresh personality.
For all her charisma, though, Chenoweth is an able actress. She knows how and when to modulate her energy and her emotions. And though her bright voice lacks the deep colors of a great interpreter, Chenoweth is a smart, sensitive singer who makes every word -- not simply every decibel -- count. "For Good," her signature song from "Wicked," was the picture of tenderness, and Chenoweth managed to evoke uncertainty in the clearest of tones. "Going to the Dance With You," sung in a sugary, sweet-natured lilt, tipped a hat to Chenoweth's youth in her hometown of Broken Arrow, Okla. -- with a timely twist at the end. Her two male suitors danced away together.
But the evening's showstoppers were, not surprisingly, the big-money theatrical numbers. In "If," from "Two on the Aisle," Chenoweth was murderous torch singer, kicking her corpse across the Symphony Hall stage while unleashing a spitfire litany of too-late hypotheticals. She inhabited three housing units and as many musical personalities in "Apartment 14G." And in Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" from "Candide," Chenoweth was kooky comedian, frantic opera diva, and breathtaking Broadway baby all rolled into one.
There was an entire Act I before Chenoweth. It was Northeastern night at the Pops, and a very special alum from the Class of '54 -- Newton Lockhart, Keith's father -- took the podium to conduct "All Hail Northeastern."
Joan Anderman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org