AVONDALE, Ariz. Kristin Chenoweth, the Tony Award and Emmy Award-winning actress, is no stranger to NASCAR.
The Oklahoma native said she watched NASCAR every weekend with her father and grandparents and cheered for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. She has previously attended races at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway, and Sunday at Phoenix Raceway she will perform the national anthem ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series championship race (3:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
And she joked that, according to her father, singing the national anthem for NASCAR’s title race means she “made it” and can now retire.
“There’s nothing like being there,” Chenoweth said of NASCAR racing. “It’s like being in a Broadway house, it’s the live performance. And that’s what they do. They’re doing their thing live, and there’s nothing like it.”
Prior to her performance on the desert circuit, For The Win spoke to 53-year-old Chenoweth about racing, her Apple TV+ show schmigadoon! and the recently announced cast of the film adaptation of Bad.
This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.
Think you could drive a race car? Would you like to?
I always want to. But here’s the problem: I can barely see over the wheel of my own car and I know the seats are really low because I’ve done Wally’s World. And so no, I can’t unless they built a special chair for me. And I’m faster than people realize.
And you think Kyle Larson is going to win the NASCAR championship?
I do. I just don’t think you can count [Denny] Hamlin out. He’s a superstar and a legend, so you can’t count him.
How do people recognize you on the street at number one?
It can be of several things. I get a lot west wing. I get a lot Bad. I get a lot cheerfulness, push daisies. I get a lot, god, RV. the film RV, that’s not going away.
Recently I just did a show called schmigadoon! that was very much appreciated. I’m always surprised when people don’t know I sing. They say “You were up” west wing, and da da da, and da da da. You don’t sing.” I’m like, “Yeah, I do.”
Was your role in schmigadoon! particularly challenging compared to others you’ve played?
It was challenging in a way. I had a 16 page issue. And the director – this was my fifth project with Barry Sonnenfeld – decided not to cut once. So I did the whole song, which was a chat song, without one cut. Not a single cut? Can I say that again? Not a single cut.
How long is that of a number if you say 16 pages?
Almost five minutes.
Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo recently cast in Bad the film. What do you think they will add to the roles of Elphaba and Glinda?
It is clear that they will bring their strong vocals. But what I like to see is the diversity. I’m going to bring that up because it’s very important that we have two girls – both are bad, and both are good. And I like that we have Cynthia, who is a powerhouse and will play the part. Sure, she’s going to sing it like it’s nobody’s business, but she’s really going to put us there.
And I think because I’ve known her for so long, Ariana is Glinda, she’s not going to act. And she can sing her face off. So in the middle of it, that’s the love story, the two women. And personally, I feel like they’re right.
Congratulations on two wonderful women. May it change your life for the better forever and ever as it has done for us. So much love. https://t.co/2avPFA9OBk
— Idina Menzel (@idinamenzel) Nov 5, 2021
When you say Ariana is Glinda, what do you mean?
She’s funny, people don’t understand she’s funny. We have done The voice together. Or, I should say, I joined her as a mentor for four or six episodes or something. She’s so funny. I don’t know if people understand that Ariana Grande is funny.
And Glinda is a very challenging role because she is the one who, if I may, is experiencing the greatest growth. She has the biggest bow and Ariana has the chops to do it. And I’m not even talking about singing.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been this proud. From the first day I met you, you were destined for this role. Congratulations @Ariana Grande! The best Glinda you will be with Cynthia by your side 💗💚 I love you!! ️👑🪄 @WICKED_Musical #bad pic.twitter.com/yUnboWPcVW
— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) Nov 5, 2021
If you could play a musical role from any period, what would it be?
There are too many things. I like Dolly Parton. I’m missing a few things, but I’d love to play her. I love Tammy Faye Bakker’s story. That’s two women – one was in the ’80s, and Dolly is a classic legend.
The Tony Award is named after Antoinette Perry, and I’ve always wondered what her story is. It’s a very interesting one, and I thought that would be cool. But I could go on.