Kristin Chenoweth said there were exactly three shows she watched on TV growing up: the Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas special, Miss America and the Tony Awards.
“That’s everything you need to know about this girl right here,” Chenoweth said at a press conference Wednesday in Salt Lake City. “This is a bucket list. It’s the music that draws me in every time, so for me, it’s part of my DNA, and I’m so honored to get to share the stage with you, Mack, and to be here with you guys. I’m so very honored. And we’re making music, that’s what we’re doing, and celebrating the birth of Christ.”
Chenoweth — known for her stage, film and TV roles in productions like “Pushing Daisies,” “Glee,” “Wicked,” “The West Wing,” Disney’s “Descendants” and “The Muppets” — is set to headline the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s annual Christmas concerts Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights as this year’s guest artist.
“I don’t know if we’ve ever had as versatile a performer as Kristin,” music director Mack Wilberg said at the conference. “She not only is a classical singer, but she sings pop, she does country … and you’re going to hear a little bit of each of those elements in this concert.”
Wilberg said this collaboration has been 10 years in the making, which makes Chenoweth’s visit this year that much more special. He said the group had a very good first rehearsal Tuesday night and that Chenoweth has contributed a lot of great ideas to the show.
“We’re so grateful that she’s here,” Wilberg said. “We are looking forward to three great evenings with our great friend, Kristin.”
All have been “completely overwhelmed and charmed” by the energy Chenoweth brings to the stage, according to Wilberg. Chenoweth — wearing tall, glittery high heels — demonstrated this energy at the press conference, playfully punching Wilberg’s arm as he was being introduced and shifting in her chair to wait expectantly for his answer when asked what Chenoweth has brought to this year’s concert as a guest artist.
“When she comes up and gives Mack a big hug or a punch on the shoulder, she means it and she feels it and it’s exciting,” choir president Ron Jarrett said at the conference. “Other artists have been much more reserved. It’s a blessing for us to have her here.”
Chenoweth is no stranger to Utah, having headlined last year’s “BYU Spectacular!” concerts. She joked during the press conference that she tasted ice cream on her visit to Provo that was so good, her hair extensions fell out. She said she has, however, experienced shortness of breath in Utah’s high altitude and dry air.
“I have struggled, I’m not going to lie. I have really, since I’ve been here, I’m like, ‘Come on, get your breath.’ Lines that would normally be in one line, I’m taking breaths,” Chenoweth said. “But I think they did tell me about the smog, so for me, I’m really trying to be aware and just forgive myself a little bit and acclimate.”
The guest artist said two of her aunts are flying in from Oklahoma to see the show.
“That’s going to be extremely special for me to have them watch me have this bucket list with these incredible musicians behind me, so that’ll be pretty amazing,” Chenoweth said.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s Christmas concerts are viewed live by 63,000 people at the Conference Center every year and later by millions on TV. Jarrett said those who attend this year’s concerts “will not be disappointed at all.”
“They have come to expect a lot of great things, mostly wonderful music, but with over 600 participants in this year’s concert, we’ll have some dancing, we’ll have great music, Rick Elliott will play the organ music, we’ll have a great experience,” Jarrett said.
Chenoweth said looking back at the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square’s history and the many guest artists who have performed at the annual Christmas concerts, like Renée Fleming and Sandi Patty, she thinks, “I want to be a part of it.”
“I just want to say that this moment in my life has been a long time coming, and all I want to do is celebrate the reason for the season, and I’m so honored to get to do it,” Chenoweth said.