We live in a cynical age. Some of us contribute to a cynical age.
We do not trust amazing discoveries or overnight sensations. We prod, we question. We wonder.
There’s a Youtube video going viral of a local voice teacher named Sarah Horn who was plucked out of the audience at musical theater star Kristin Chenoweth’s Friday night concert at the Hollywood Bowl to sing a duet with Chenoweth on the number “For Good” from “Wicked.”
Horn apparently blew everyone away and now she’s getting appearances and offers. I’ve seen news clips, but haven’t watched the Youtube video. Great voice, great presence, and it was a gracious and lovely gesture of Chenoweth to share the stage on a night that was most decidedly all about Kristen Chenoweth.
Here’s the thing, though.
This not-to-be-duplicated backstory…she wasn’t supposed to be there, she was in somebody else’s seats…should we buy? Was this random act of “star-making” really so random after all?
I ask because I attended Chenoweth’s Saturday show where the exact same thing happened. Different lady, this time ... a young woman named Kellie McKay who was studying musical theater at the Boston Conservatory. It was during the second act when Chenoweth and a couple of her helpers circulated out among the first several rows and asked people whether they knew the song “For Good.” Chenoweth dinged a couple of candidates before opting to bring McKay - a musical theater student at Boston Conservatory, remember – up on stage. Then the L.A. Philharmonic kicked in, Chenoweth took the first couple of verses, and then McKay did her stuff.
And, yup, McKay could sing. Beautifully.
And Chenoweth gawked and beamed and made the same amazed remark about McKay’s ability to harmonize.
And then there were big hugs and audience ovations after the number was complete, after which Chenoweth remarked “I’m glad I won’t be in New York next year when she graduates.”
(Some of us would very much like Chenoweth to be back in New York next year, particularly if it means she’ll do another musical, but that’s another story.)
Departing the Bowl after what was a really cool performance of showtunes, movie music and the occasional pop songs, I and a few of my fellow exiters wondered whether Kellie McKay had been an audience “plant,” i.e. someone who the Chenoweth camp (or the L.A. Philharmonic camp) had arranged to have in the audience.
Admittedly, when you attempt something like this, you’re taking a risk if you pick someone to sing with you and that person freezes up or turns out to be tone deaf. On the other hand, even had something un-pretty gone down, Chenoweth would still have come off smelling sweet for sharing the stage with an amateur.
McKay and Horn have both written “what a dream come true” accounts of their Hollywood Bowl experiences on broadwayworld.com. It may now simply be part of Kristin Chenoweth’s concert act now that, wherever she is, she plucks someone out of the audience to give her a 15 minute moment. Horn is milking it. She’s going back to the bowl to judge their ABBA Fest on September 8. McKay will likely be the envy of her theater class back in Beantown.
If McKay was a plant, then Horn likely was as well. Either way, Good for both of them.
Orchestrated or otherwise, it was kinda cool. For two already great nights and in their aftermath, Kristin Chenoweth was – to borrow a “Wicked” word – “pop-yew-oo-ler.”