Kristin Chenoweth’s Private Stage – The New York Times


For a dozen years, the Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth lived just off the Hudson River on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Hard by a pier, the location was grand in the summer, but left something to be desired in the winter. The winds were such that every time the petite Ms. Chenoweth ventured outdoors she was just one stiff gust away from making like Mary Poppins.

A few years ago, she moved inland to calmer climes and a two-bedroom condo in Midtown West. “I was literally walking by and said, ‘I wouldn’t mind living in that building.’ It’s on the newer side, but in an old neighborhood,” said Ms. Chenoweth, one of the few Broadway stars (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” “Wicked”) to make the leap into the broader pop culture, thanks to roles in series like “Glee,” “The West Wing” and “Pushing Daisies,” and movies like “Four Christmases.”

Ms. Chenoweth, 51, has also released several CDs, including “For the Girls,” which came out in late September and features appearances by Jennifer Hudson, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and Ariana Grande. It will be the centerpiece of Ms. Chenoweth’s limited engagement concert (Nov. 8 through 17) at the Nederlander Theater on Broadway.

The large windows in her living room let in abundant light and let Ms. Chenoweth see all the way down to Hudson Yards. “I didn’t know a view like that was important to me,” she said. “But it became important to me when I saw it.”

Even more important, the apartment didn’t need a jot of work.

“I am a big lover of walking in and the place being ready,” said Ms. Chenoweth, who is equal parts charming and voluble. (She carries around business cards inscribed with the exhortation “Stop Talking,” a reminder to herself and others to put a lid on it.) “Some people love to move walls around. They can see it, they have a vision; they have the time and the wherewithal. As the daughter of a man who was an engineer and owned a construction company, you’d think that would be something I would enjoy. But that isn’t me. That has never been me.”

Her aesthetic is an evolving thing. The starting point was Ikea. From there, Ms. Chenoweth progressed to shabby chic, then to what she calls modern chic. A turning point was her starring role in the 2015 revival of “On the Twentieth Century,” a musical inspired by the 1930s screwball comedy “Twentieth Century.”

“There was a lot of Art Deco in the show,” Ms. Chenoweth recalled. “And I was like, ‘I like that.’ And I kind of took note and came to this.”

“This” is a mix of Art Deco and Hollywood Regency, with a bit of the 1960s thrown in: chrome-and-glass bar cart; two-tiered glass coffee table; area rug patterned in circles; acrylic chairs; faux-fur and jungle-print pillows. The palette, mostly earth tones, is relieved by a low, tufted rose-colored bench behind the sofa. A Kawai baby grand piano anchors the space, which, just to be clear, would be nothing to Ms. Chenoweth without her assertive companion, a mixed breed named Thunder.



Occupation: Actor and singer

I feel a song coming on: “My building is very well soundproofed, but I’m very conscious that after 10 I should probably not play the piano and sing. I say to myself, ‘Don’t go singing Bernstein at midnight.’”


All the world’s a stage, and Ms. Chenoweth wants to buy the set. “In a store, I’ll see the whole bedroom — with the carpet and the lamp and the nightstand and the bed and the bedding and the picture on the wall — and I’ll say, ‘I’ll take it, the whole thing,’” she said.

Still, it’s very easy to distinguish the apartment from a showroom. There is, first off, the bow and arrow on the wall. (“I’m from Oklahoma; I have shot a bow and arrow. But not at anyone,” said Ms. Chenoweth, whose heritage is part Native American.) There’s the string of Christmas lights in the master bathroom. (“I just like the feeling of Christmas all year.”)

A framed playbill heralding Ms. Chenoweth’s performance at the Metropolitan Opera; the framed certificate celebrating a record that went platinum; the photographs taken with people like Carol Burnett — all speak to a glittering career. So does the one-of-a-kind Kristin Chenoweth Barbie doll encased in plastic, part of Mattel’s Role Model collection. “As I always tell people, it’s life-size,” she said.

But Ms. Chenoweth, who grew up in suburban Tulsa and sang gospel music in local churches, is hardly one to forget her roots, either temporal or religious. A photograph of Florence Birdwell, her beloved music teacher from back home, hangs near the piano. The wall unit in the living room holds a cowboy hat and a handbag fashioned from an Oklahoma license plate. Nearby is a plaque etched with the prayer of Saint Francis.

“This is very important to me because of what it says,” Ms. Chenoweth said, quietly reciting the words: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love.”

Other sources of inspiration include a framed quote by Elizabeth Edwards — “When the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails” — that was a gift from a fan, and a copy of a letter from Martha Graham to Agnes de Mille about creativity and its dissatisfactions, a gift from Ms. Birdwell.

“It’s what Florence taught: You’re the vessel through which art can flow. Don’t block it,” Ms. Chenoweth said earnestly. “When I would have a hard time in college, she would tell me to read the letter out loud.”



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