Kristin Chenoweth On 'The Witches' and Broadway's Return Post-COVID

Parting Shot - Kristen Chenoweth
Krista Schluete

"My dream is that somebody right now is writing a Broadway show about this pandemic."

In 2003, Kristin Chenoweth floated onto the Broadway stage of Wicked in a literal bubble, solidifying her place in Broadway history as a stage icon. "I didn't know it would be the juggernaut that it became. I'm always going to be happy that that show is part of my showbiz DNA." Since then she's claimed her place in TV and film, with two more roles this fall—in Robert Zemeckis' The Witches (HBO Max, October 22) and rom-com Holidate (Netflix, October 28)—as well as hosting reality TV series Candy Land (Food Network, November 15). But like people across the globe, Chenoweth has had to adjust to a new reality during COVID-19. "My dream is that somebody right now is writing a Broadway show about this pandemic. I think it could bring a lot of humor because I know for sure I've gone a little bit crazy during the quarantine. There's going to be some beautiful music when we come back." Whenever that time comes, and however it looks, Chenoweth is ready. "I don't care if there are 10 people in the audience, I would love to be there, creating and singing and just sharing artistic love with the audience."

Most of your work on Robert Zemeckis' The Witches was done during the pandemic. What was it like working on it?

It was really interesting because corona had stopped us all in our tracks right around the time I was to begin work on it. So my poor boyfriend blanketed my closet to make it as soundproof as possible, Zemeckis and his whole team sent the equipment so they could film me, have the computer, have the microphone and watch so that the animators could maybe be inspired by some of my literal physicality. We managed to do it, and with a great leader like Zemeckis, it turned out really great. One of the things I'm so proud of with our adaptation is not only the visuals obviously, but you know Anne Hathaway is so delicious as the villain, I mean so delicious. And Octavia has the heart.

You have a new holiday film coming out on Netflix. What do you think it is about holiday films that make them so popular? Were you also a fan of holiday films?

I have been in several myself, and I used to think I had Christmas written across my forehead because of Four Christmases, Deck the Halls, 12 Men of Christmas and now Holidate on Netflix. I've done a lot of them, and I love them, mainly because...well who just can't laugh at their own family? I don't know anyone who can't. Also, especially now in the times we live in, it's great to have a film that is going to make people laugh and hopefully forget what's going on around us. We have trying times right now, and I think if there's ever a time for a good "Holidate" movie, it is now.

Wicked changed music theater in so many ways, did you ever expect it to become iconic? What is something people ask you about Wicked to this day?

I kind of had a feeling it was going to be huge. I always wanted to be in a show that people had heard of. I had won a Tony Award for Charlie Brown, and it closed a week later. I wanted a show like Les Mis or Phantom. I wanted to touch people more than that.

Speaking of getting asked questions by your fans, you have turned your experience from an amazing career into a master class at your alma mater, Oklahoma City University. What inspired you to give back?

I really wanted to do it, not to just give back to my alma mater, which I'm so proud of, but also thinking about the pandemic, I want students to understand that while you're not doing the thing that you want to be doing, you can still be learning. So that's why I dedicated a lot of my time to teaching on Zoom, and asking way more famous friends than me to come and teach with me. It's so inspiring for me to inspire these kids. I want them to know it's going to be okay.

You have a new competition show called Candy Land coming to the Food Network. The entire set was edible. Why candy, and how do you keep yourself from eating everything on set?

First of all, anyone that's close to me knows I don't go into my kitchen. I don't like kitchens, they make me nervous. I'm not a cook. I'm really good at ordering in. When the Food Network was calling me, I thought I was getting punked. All I can say is by the end of every day I was so wired that the judges were like, "Kristin, you cannot eat any more of the cotton candy tree, you can't eat any more suckers at gumdrop village, the peppermint forest has to be left alone." I would just find myself grabbing these things and eating.

Broadway was impacted so hard by the pandemic. What's your hope for Broadway when it's safe to return?

My dream is that somebody right now is writing a Broadway show about this pandemic, about artists and how we are handling it. I think it could bring a lot of humor because I know for sure I've gone a little bit crazy during the quarantine. A show like this could bring a lot of hope. There's going to be some beautiful music when we come back, you know it. I'm going to say it could be our proudest moment yet.