By Lynette Carrington
Photo courtesy of Jill Fritzo PR
Whether you’ve caught her on numerous TV shows, including Glee, The West Wing, and her Emmy Award-winning role on Pushing Daisies, or on the big screen in Running with Scissors or The Peanuts Movie, one can’t help but be captivated by the pure Midwestern charm of Kristin Chenoweth. The singer, actress and Broadway powerhouse – who starred as Glinda in Wicked and won a Tony Award for her role in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown – will appear in the Valley to perform at Celebrity Fight Night on Saturday, March 10. In addition to the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, the star-studded event will support the Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Disorders Program at Barrow Neurological Institute, as well as other charities.
“I had been invited to Celebrity Fight Night one other time and wasn’t able go,” Chenoweth says. “I was so upset. Not only was this for a good cause, but it sounded fun. I thought I could hang with Reba and Andrea Bocelli, plus David Foster, who I love, and just meet some cool people. Then I got the invitation again, and I started clearing my schedule for it.”
Celebrity Fight Night also has a corresponding European event each year, and it played a part in getting Chenoweth to the Valley. “I didn’t realize the history of Celebrity Fight Night and that Muhammad Ali and Andrea Bocelli had partnered and begun this incredible work together. I knew it was charity and it was doing good things, but I really didn’t know what it was.”
In 2017, she was able to attend Celebrity Fight Night in Italy and her experience was profound. After that, she says, “I knew I wanted to be part of it.”
Regarding Chenoweth’s involvement, Jimmy Walker, the founder of Celebrity Fight Night, says, “Kristin Chenoweth was a favorite among many Europeans at our Celebrity Fight Night-Andrea Bocelli Foundation charity event last September when we were in the historic Colosseum in Rome. Kristin is not only a superstar on stage, where she is extremely talented. More importantly, she is a superstar in real life, where everyone loves her.”
Chenoweth has been personally touched by her experience with Celebrity Fight Night as it relates to her own philanthropic endeavors, too.
“I have my own theater in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, where I grew up. This past summer was our third summer arts camp for kids to come and audition and learn singing, acting and dancing. It’s really changed my focus in this area.”
In 2012, the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center Foundation joined forces with the actress to name The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre and form The Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Entertainment Fund.
Initiatives include bringing internationally acclaimed artists and Broadway productions to Broken Arrow, scholarship programs, educational outreach classes with touring artists, summer and after-school workshops, and creating opportunities for students to perform at the national level.
“I wanted to watch David Foster, Andrea Bocelli and Jimmy Walker and see how they did this event,” Chenoweth says. “My foundation is young, and I want to learn. I want to learn.”
During her time in Italy, Chenoweth recalls having one of the best weeks of her life. “I met some incredible people. I’m sitting there and Steven Tyler gets up and performs and I’m just like, ‘Now wait a minute!’ And then Andrea Bocelli sings, and he has a son, Matteo Bocelli, who is following in his footsteps. He is someone that I personally want to mentor, but he doesn’t know it yet! I see the big picture. I see what they’re doing, and it’s really changed my life.
“Musically, it was one of the happiest times I’ve had,” Chenoweth adds. “I got to go up and sing a couple of songs and that was cool. But all of a sudden, David Foster asked [if I wanted] sing The Prayer with Andrea Bocelli. I was like, ‘What?!’ That was a bananas moment.”
During her time at Celebrity Fight Night in Italy, Bocelli asked Chenoweth to perform with him at Madison Square Garden. She particularly identified with Bocelli in that they have a mutual love of getting young performers on stage with them, along with other well-known performers and artists. Chenoweth adds, “Andrea gets it, too.”
“Jimmy [Walker] and I have an unlikely friendship, and I didn’t know it,” says Chenoweth, noting that although he comes from the world of investments and she comes from the world of performance, they have a bond through helping others. “He and I share a similar fate,” Chenoweth says. “Being with him, the few times that I have, it is a reminder to me that he is a representative to the stars and he remembers what this is about and that is a big draw.” She feels that, for her, Celebrity Fight Night is absolutely the right event in which to be involved.
In addition to supporting Celebrity Fight Night and her initiatives with the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center Foundation and The Kristin Chenoweth Arts & Entertainment Fund, she raises awareness and support for various causes.
“Kind of like how Andrea Bocelli is involved with kids in the arts, that’s a big one for me. But I’m also involved with cancer awareness and anything to do with breast cancer. I’ve lost an aunt to cancer, my mom has had cancer three times, and another one of my aunts has had cancer,” she says. “In New York, I like to give back to the homeless.” With great sincerity, Chenoweth says she loves to give back to those who are less fortunate and she supports numerous organizations that help the poor.
Though she lives in Los Angeles, Chenoweth has a heart for Scottsdale and Phoenix. “In Oklahoma, we don’t have a professional football team. I’ve adopted the Arizona Cardinals because I grew up in Phoenix until I was in second grade. My dad and I have always rooted for the Cardinals.”
In fact, Michael Bidwell approached Chenoweth during the Cardinals’ Veteran’s Day game in November about doing a free concert for the families at Luke Air Force Base. This was a no-brainer for Chenoweth. “I have several military members in my family, so I know their sacrifices. There are just certain places I feel drawn, and Phoenix is one of those places.”
She will be back in the Valley again shortly after Celebrity Fight Night to perform at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts on March 17.
The 24th Annual Celebrity Fight Night will be hosted by the Grammy Award-winning leading lady of country music, Reba McEntire, for her 13th year. It will take place at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa at 5 p.m. on March 10. For tickets or additional information, visit www.celebrityfightnight.org.