If someone had told me one of my first concerts of 2021 would be Kristin Chenoweth and the Utah Symphony, I probably would’ve told them they were crazy—but at Deer Valley’s Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater on a toasty July night, I was proven wrong. There was a palpable buzz in the air as concertgoers lined up outside the venue on the ski slope. There they discussed where they were going to sit, swapped stories of their last-attended shows. They also shared in the excitement of seeing an Emmy AND Tony award-winner live on the stage.
Kristin wouldn’t be alone: on the stage tuning up prior to the start of the show were the members of the Utah Symphony, conducted by Mary-Mitchell Campbell. With a flourish of an introduction by the symphony, Kristin appeared on the stage in a flowing white gown. She glided into a beautiful rendition of “Que Sera Sera”. It was her first performance in a year and a half in front of a live audience. Chenoweth, along with the symphony, emitted the joy of returning home after a long time away. Or as Kristin put it, “like water in the desert”.
In between “The Song Remembers When” and the big-band swing of “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” Chenoweth entertained the audience with COVID-19 jokes. “This virus has done what no woman had been able to do… cancel all sports, shut down all bars, and keep men at home!”. After the laughter died down, Chenoweth recounted a couple of stories about her father and a close friend. She did so with a fondness that surely pulled on heartstrings, bookended by the original “Fathers and Daughters” and “The Sweetheart Tree.”
Kristen’s invited stage guests
Guitarist Josh Bryant joined Kristin Chenoweth on stage for an acoustic cover of “Desperado” and a few more COVID-19 jokes were told. Chenoweth then channeled Eliza Doolittle during a quick pre-intermission teaser of Act II with “I Could Have Danced All Night.”
When she returned, the Utah Symphony kicked off “I’m a Woman,” featuring the incredible Marissa Rosen and Crystal Monee Hall. Rosen and Hall complemented Chenoweth’s vocals perfectly during “You Don’t Own Me,” backed by the Symphony’s punctuated brass. The strings were then front and center during “Hard Times Come No More,” sweeping the audience into a Copland-Esque serenade.
The entire hillside cheered in excitement with the first lyrics of “Popular,” and Chenoweth pointed her bedazzled mic at the crowd in encouragement to sing along. They filled in the gaps when Chenoweth momentarily forgot a few of the lyrics, looking over her shoulder at the symphony smiling while the audience laughed. “I’ve had to have been singing that song for 18 years,” she exclaimed. “So it’s fitting that I forgot the words!”
Naturally, “Popular” was followed by “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as the sun set behind the mountain. Throughout the evening, the audience was taken on a journey from uplifting ballads to oldies to technicolor musical numbers—Rosen and Hall covered Aretha’s “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman,” and Chenoweth performed a stirring version of Les Mis’s “Bring Him Home.”
The trio concluded with an original written by Hall. The lyrics of which could not have been a better punctuation to end the night. When things seem dark, we see reasons for hope. To accompany this message, Campbell took to the keys and Chenoweth’s voice floated up the mountainside during “Smile,” a perfect finale to bring the show to a hopeful close.
If you didn’t catch the performance at Deer Valley alongside the Utah Symphony, Kristin Chenoweth will be performing on November 6 at the Tuacahn Amphitheatre in Southern Utah.
Review and Photos by Katie Barber