At the time she won her Tony in 1999 for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Kristin Chenoweth was a charming theater actress known for her tiny size and her powerful singing voice. These days Chenoweth, who was nominated again in 2004 for Wicked, is a recognizable star thanks to appearances in a bunch movies, guest star spots on Glee and an Emmy Award for her turn on TV’s Pushing Daisies. Lucky for us, the singer has come home to Broadway to star in the Tony-nominated revival of Promises, Promises and she hasn't forgotten the excitement of winning her first big award.
Which year did you win your first Tony?
My first and only win was in 1999 [Best Featured Actress in a Musical].
For which role and show?
It was for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown . The role was Sally, Charlie Brown's little sister.
Where were the awards held?
Ironically, the Tonys were held that year at the Gershwin Theatre, where I would eventually create the role of Glinda in Wicked. Radio City Music Hall was being renovated at the time.
I believe the Tonys were hosted by an array of Broadway legends that year: everyone from Matthew Broderick to Bea Arthur.
What did you wear?
I wore a gorgeous pink Tommy Hilfiger dress that was tailor-made for me. That year, Gwyneth Paltrow wore a pink dress at the Oscars that I loved, so I wanted the same color. Plus, pink IS my signature color! Ha ha!
Who was sitting next to you?
No one was sitting next to me, because I was backstage with five dressers changing my clothes like a crazy person. Our cast had just done a number from our show, so I only had a few seconds to change. (I knew IF I won, I wanted to look like an adult.) When they called my name, the five other cast members screamed so loud, my heart just welled up! I remember especially Ilana Levine [who played Lucy] screaming her head off. She doesn't know it, but that moment meant the most to me. And I rushed out there (I think Laurence Fishburne pushed me and said, "Go!").
What was the first thing that ran through your mind when they said your name?
I was really hoping my dress was on straight, and my hair, too. You see, I changed wigs, too! I had a wig that LOOKED like my hair to save time. When I actually won, I was praying that my "bangs" weren't at the nape of my neck.
Did you forget to thank anyone?
There's no way you can remember everyone, but I think I got the most important ones in, although I did owe a shout out to Kim Grigsby, our conductor.
Did you cry?
I did cry a bit, but I really wanted to thank everyone from my heart, not from a list, so I had to pull it together and CONCENTRATE.
If you could relive that night, would you change anything?
I wouldn't change ONE thing about that night. It was PERFECT in every way. My parents and my beloved voice teacher from Oklahoma were there, as well as my agents at the time, whom I adore still. I was beaming. And THANKFUL.
Did winning a Tony change your life? How?
The Tony changed my life because only New York people really knew about me until then. It opened up doors, which created great opportunities for me. I'm not big on awards, but the Tony is the most prestigious, in my humble opinion. (Not that I wouldn't take a Grammy or an Oscar.)
What's your biggest memory of the night?
I remember being at the party and I looked over and saw my dad taking a picture with my idol, Bernadette Peters. It was surreal. She was complimenting them about me, and I'm thinking, "Oh wow. She's my hero…and now my dad has a picture with her."
What's the best piece of advice you can offer for getting through Tony night?
I would tell any of the nominees this year to just HAVE FUN! When I was nominated for Wicked, that's what I did: partied with my family and the cast, my second family at the time. If you don't win, it means the RIGHT person won. I was elated when Idina [Menzel] won! I knew how badly she wanted it, and I wanted it for her! We had a blast! And if you do win, celebrate! And be grateful that there are shows that honor us in the theater business!!!
Where do you keep your Tony?
I leave it atop my piano! It intimidates me.