Let Yourself Go
Kristin Chenoweth capped a rising career in musical theater with her debut solo album, which found her showing off her well-trained soprano in a collection of show tunes, most of which dated to the interwar period. On Irving Berlin's "Let Yourself Go," she tap danced like Fred Astaire in Follow the Fleet, and she worked up a torrent of comic anger in Jule Styne's "If You Hadn't But You Did." Then, she switched gears, proving herself a potently romantic figure in the Gershwins' "How Long Has This Been Going On?" and Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine." And so it went. Backed by the Coffee Club Orchestra, the resident backup band for City Center's Encores! series of concert versions of lost musicals, with whom she had worked on Strike Up the Band and On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, she recreated one of the Strike Up the Band numbers, the lesser-known Gershwin treat "Hangin' Around With You," abetted by another musical theater veteran who had branched out into TV, Jason Alexander. Jeanine Tesori and Dick Scanlan's previously unheard "The Girl in 14G" allowed her to show off her opera training as well as her scatting abilities, and she fearlessly (and successfully) took on the ghost of Mary Martin by covering "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" from One Touch of Venus. Like an elaborate audition tape, the album seemed designed to suggest that Chenoweth could play any sort of part; sometimes the songs themselves reflected this goal of displaying versatility, notably the obscure Vincent Youmans song "Should I Be Sweet?," in which the singer must bounce back and forth between "sweet" and "hot" personas as she tries to choose between them. But whatever role she undertook, Chenoweth revealed more than enough talent to excel on a dazzling first album.