It’s 12 o’clock somewhere. Somewhere other than Las Vegas, that is.
That’s the idea behind The Smith Center’s first foray into New Year’s Eve entertainment, as Tony- and Emmy-winner Kristin Chenoweth headlines a considerably before-midnight 7:30 p.m. concert at Reynolds Hall.
With her Broadway-to-Hollywood career — and her opera-to-opry vocal range — Chenoweth seems a natural fit for the gig.
And while Smith Center officials “have been wanting to bring her here” for some time, they weren’t sure they wanted it to be on New Year’s Eve, according to Myron Martin, president of the downtown performing arts complex.
After all, “Las Vegas is the entertainment capital of the world — and nobody does New Year’s Eve better than Las Vegas,” Martin points out. But “a number of our patrons didn’t necessarily want to go to the Strip.”
Even so, he adds, “we had no history, no experience with this kind of counter approach to New Year’s Eve” — one that offered audiences the chance to “have dinner and see a show and be home by midnight.”
Now, however, “we couldn’t be happier,” Martin says, predicting that a sold-out crowd will greet Chenoweth when she takes the stage.
Chenoweth, 45, seconds that emotion, noting that “I love Las Vegas for all reasons.”
One of them being the chance to commune with an audience, sharing songs and stories that speak to her — and her sense of what New Year’s Eve is all about.
“It’s starting over,” Chenoweth says of the shift from 2013 to 2014, adding that the year about to end “has been a fascinatingly tough, wonderful year,” one where “I’ve had some loss, I’ve had some gains. I think that’s life.”
Little wonder, then, that Chenoweth plans to perform “Lessons Learned” — from her 2011 recording “Some Lessons Learned.”
Sample lyric: “And all the things that break you are all the things that make you strong, you can’t change the past, ’cause it’s gone, and you just gotta move on.”
New Year’s Eve, for some people, represents “kind of a sad time,” she says during a telephone interview, but “I really just want to celebrate all the stuff through the year, because there’s more of that coming. It’s life.”
And, this New Year’s Eve, that’s entertainment.
“The show is not just what I call ‘park and bark,’ ” she explains; three backup singers and an 11-piece band will be joining her on the Reynolds Hall stage to perform “everything from opera to country to musical theater.”
In addition, “I always like to do different things for different audiences,” she points out — which means Smith Center audiences can expect “some special material just for New Year’s Eve,” along with “a Christmas song or two.”
To say nothing of the inevitable selections from her Broadway smash “Wicked,” because “someone would shoot me if I didn’t do that,” Chenoweth says. (The “Wicked” salute usually involves randomly choosing a lucky audience member to sing the show’s duet finale, “For Good.”)
As for the rest, she says, “you might be hearing ‘Enough Is Enough,’ ” Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer’s chart-topping disco diva duet of 1979. And the swooningly romantic Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II ballad “All the Things You Are,” a Top Five hit four decades earlier.
Such range reflects Chenoweth’s own wide-raging talents.
There’s Broadway, where her roles include a Tony-winning turn in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” and a Tony-nominated performance as Glinda in the “Wizard of Oz” prequel musical “Wicked.”
There’s TV, where Chenoweth won an Emmy for “Pushing Daisies” and earned another nomination for a recurring role in “Glee.”
Other small-screen credits range from her recent series “GCB” and to a recurring role on “The Good Wife” (where, in a near-fatal accident last year, Chenoweth suffered a skull fracture, a broken nose and rib and spinal injuries).
There’s also the big screen, where Chenoweth has four movies awaiting release, from the animated “Rio 2” to the thriller “The Boy Next Door” with Jennifer Lopez.
All of those projects enable the performer to “hide” behind a character, she observes.
On the concert stage, there’s nowhere to hide, but “for me, it’s very freeing,” Chenoweth says.
And while “I’m not playing a character,” the audience represents “another sort of character,” she says. “Hopefully, if I have fun, they’ll have fun. They will inform me. We feed off each other.”
That sort of give-and-take means Chenoweth “might take something out and put something in” at the last minute, but her backup singers and band members “all know to be ready for anything.”
Overall, “I think the most important thing is to entertain from your heart,” she says. “Singing is acting, acting is dancing — it all fits together.”
And while “I like doing everything,” Chenoweth says, that if she had to choose, “I just can never not be performing live.”
After all, “that’s who I am,” she says. “When there’s an audience, I’m happy.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.