“Let your ambition be about who you want to be, not what you want to get.”
~Kristin Chenoweth, in her book A Little Bit Wicked
That quote up there? It’s a perfect example of why I admire Kristin. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, and not just because of her amazing voice and her undeniable acting prowess. When she sings, people get goosebumps. When she acts, people feel like they’re right there in the scene, experiencing every emotion right along with her character. To say she’s talented would be an understatement. To say she’s inspiring would be another one. I knew that before I read her book earlier this year, but that took it to a whole new level. The fact that it seriously took me fifteen minutes to decide which quote to use for this post is proof of that. I’ve already written about her book, so I won’t go into details again, other than to say that her perspective and outlook are both refreshing and contagious. She makes you want to go out there and defy some gravity of your own.
In a way, that’s kind of what Sunday the 21st felt like for me. When those fifth row seats popped up online, I couldn’t have been more excited. I had been checking the tickets for a few weeks already at that point, and nothing closer than the twentieth row ever came up for the orchestra section. I have absolutely no idea what made those seats appear, but I’m beyond grateful. We were on the right side, but the first two seats on the aisle closest to the center. The view couldn’t possibly have been better. And the atmosphere – it may sound cliche, but it’s honestly like it was alive with energy. Everyone in the audience seemed so genuinely happy to be there. From the minute we walked into the theater, I couldn’t have agreed more (okay, even before that – Sara and I had a lot of fun taking pictures of the marquee and all the posters outside). There’s just something invigorating and special about live theater, especially when it features a performer who’s one of your favorites.
The show itself was phenomenal. It was touching, wise, poignant, hilarious, sentimental, and inspiring, all rolled into one. That’s one of the things I loved most about it, actually. It wasn’t just a comedy. It wasn’t just a drama. It wasn’t just a musical. It was the best of every world, all these different threads woven together to create a patchwork that was simply mesmerizing for the audience. The humorous parts had everyone laughing out loud, the emotional ones had the audience holding a collective breath, waiting to see what happened next. We rooted for Chuck. We rooted for Fran. We rooted for them individually and, with a little bit of luck thrown their way, as a couple. Sean Hayes was sick and couldn’t perform, but Peter Benson, the actor who filled in for him, was absolutely wonderful and so talented. The whole cast was. They made the show positively come alive. Another of my favorites was Molly Shannon. She did such a fantastic, hysterical job at playing Marge … she had everyone in stitches! And then, of course, there was Kristin. Finally getting to see her perform live was just fabulous. Her acting was so real, so nuanced and genuine, that she truly made Fran this character everyone could relate to in some way. We didn’t just see her feelings; we felt them, too. And her singing! Wow. All I can say is that her voice is even more incredible in person and I seriously got chills during some of her songs. My favorites were “I Say A Little Prayer” and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” I won’t spoil the plot and ending for the show in case anyone’s planning to see it before it closes (seriously, go if you can!). I’ll just say that I loved, loved, loved the last scene and how everything tied together.
Okay, onto meeting Kristin and the rest of the cast (anyone still reading at this point?). We hightailed it to the stage door and were lucky enough to get spots right up front. So many of the actors were kind enough to come out and meet everyone after the show. I just have to say, I think it’s really cool that they do that. Working eight shows a week can’t be easy, and to take time for the fans in addition to that means a lot. We got to chat with Tony Goldwyn, Peter Benson (whose family and best friend were there to see him in the lead role – they were all so cute!), and Molly Shannon. They were all so sweet and gracious, and you could tell it meant a lot to them to meet everyone. Peter asked us if we liked the show, and Molly was super-chatty and personable. She even made time to take pictures with everyone who asked. I’m not a regular SNL watcher, but I can certainly see why she did such a great job with it. She’s seriously such a natural comedienne.
And Kristin. What to say about Kristin? She is an absolute, total sweetheart. I knew she would be, but actually getting to meet and talk to her … it just reinforced that tenfold. I had written a letter for her, since I knew I wouldn’t have time to tell her everything I wanted to, so I was juggling that, the playbill, her book (for her to sign), and my camera. As she made her way over to meet everyone, my mantra was “don’t drop everything all over when she’s standing in front of you!” She talked to Sara first, and then before I knew it, she was right there in front of me. Honestly, the whole thing was so surreal that it half feels like a blur, but I remember telling her how absolutely fabulous she is right off the bat. I gave her the note then, and she got all excited and went “For me? Thank you!” And, the part that made the day so very special, I also had the opportunity to tell her I’m a writer and that her book so inspired me while I was working on my own. The way she froze, looked up from signing the book and stared at me with these wide eyes, and went “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, thank you!” is honestly something I’ll never forget. There’s a specific part of her book that really, really resonated with me and one of the main messages of my new novel, and to be able to thank her for that in person meant the world. She was beyond gracious and sweet, and even though I didn’t think it was possible, I’m even more of a fan now than I was before. Meeting her made that happen in the blink of an eye.
Kristin’s the kind of person who’s impacted so many lives for good. She reminds us that any dream is possible, if we only work hard enough to turn it into reality. She reminds us that life’s too short not to reach for the stars. She reminds us that ambition should be about who we want to be, who we are, and not what we get out of it. For me, that’s a writer. Would I love to be a published author? Do I want to make a career out of this more than words can express? Of course. But what I also understand is that being a writer is intrinsic. It’s who I am. It’s my own way of defying gravity, no matter what anyone says. Meeting Kristin reinforced that. She inspires me when I listen to her music, she inspired me while I was writing Reflections of Me, she inspired me all over again when I met her. It was truly an amazing, amazing day that I’ll always remember.
That’s a promise.