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POP MUSIC REVIEW

Chenoweth proves she's much more than perky

July 11, 2006|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

Adorable is OK. And perky can have its moments. But an artist who embodies both always runs the risk of turning in performances just this side of a root canal.

Why, then, was Kristin Chenoweth's concert Sunday at the Greek Theatre such an exquisite experience? She is adorable and perky. And she, herself, has referred to her "Betty Boop" sound.

The answer stems from her extraordinary musicality, commanding stage presence, remarkably pliable voice and irresistible likability. And the actor's skills she brought to every song, transforming each into a miniature one-act play with music.

In the case of a piece such as "The Girl in 14G," Chenoweth provided an auditory view of someone who has an opera singer living a floor above and a scat singer living a floor below. Chenoweth sang the story, inserted operatic arias and brisk scat singing, sometimes switching from one to the other in a single beat, and did it all with superb comedic timing and astonishing musical versatility.

A pair of numbers -- "Going to the Dance With You" and "Daddy" -- done with the assistance of dancer-singers David Elder and Sean Martin Hingston displayed her ability to flirt, dance and sing while offering sly, off-the-cuff comments on her performance.

In an evening filled with musical riches, two numbers stood out. Meredith Willson's "My White Knight," a song omitted from the movie version of "The Music Man," let Chenoweth step away from her buoyant, entertainer's style and simply deliver a magically convincing rendering of a marvelous number. (How in the world did it ever get cut from the film?)

Leonard Bernstein's "Glitter and Be Gay" (from "Candide") is a challenge for any soprano. But Chenoweth's reading was stunning, juxtaposing witty phrasing against the song's demanding coloratura and high E-flats (executed flawlessly). Here, as elsewhere in the concert, her adorable perkiness couldn't disguise the depth and the quality of a first-rate musical theater artist.

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