Feel Good Friday: Kristin Chenoweth Shares Heartfelt Letter From Stephen Sondheim | Playbill

Special Features Feel Good Friday: Kristin Chenoweth Shares Heartfelt Letter From Stephen Sondheim

The Tony winner was forced to make a difficult career decision in the early 2000s, but the musical master supported her the whole way through.

Kristin Chenoweth and Stephen Sondheim

Times may be hard, but there is still joy to be found, even after a long week. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a moment of emotional release. Welcome to Playbill's Feel Good Friday feature.

Sometimes, actors are forced to make difficult choices. While many go for long stretches of time between high profile gigs, occasionally a series of lucky breaks line up, forcing a performer to pick between a number of wonderful jobs.

Tony winner Kristin Chenoweth took to Instagram this week to share one of the hardest choices she has had to make in her career, stating that "Once upon a time I was offered two jobs: one with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the other with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Talk about a Sophie’s choice!"

Based on the date of the letter Chenoweth shared (November 6, 2002), the context clues within (such as Hal Prince's meeting with her regarding the Sondheim project) and her responses to comments on the original post, the options she had to pick between become clear.

The Sondheim musical in question was Bounce!, the second iteration of Sondheim's last new musical to be produced during his lifetime. Originally produced as Wise Guys, this new variation was to reunite Sondheim with his close friend and longtime collaborator Harold "Hal" Prince for a run at the Kennedy Center.

The Stephen Schwartz musical was a little show in development called Wicked. The smash hit reimagining of The Wizard of Oz has since been enchanting Broadway audiences for 20 years, with no signs of slowing down.

In the comments of the post, Chenoweth added, "I should also mention i was offered a role on The West Wing at this same time. Tough decision."

The West Wing was one of the most successful television programs of all time, winning the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series a remarkable four years in a row, adding to its total of 26 statuettes. The show had premiered in 1999, and was hitting a major critical stride in 2002.

In the end, she picked Wicked. Chenoweth originated the role of Glinda for the 2003 San Francisco tryout and was with the show when it came to Broadway, opening at the Gershwin Theatre October 8, 2003.

Chenoweth shared the heartfelt letter she received from Sondheim after she had made her choice, with the musical master expressing his disappointment at their not being able to collaborate together.

The letter read as follows

"Dear Kristin Chenoweth -

Thank you for the thoughtful and generous note. I, too, was disappointed, but I understand completely. I hope that Wicked turns out to be everything you want it to be (and that Steve wants it to be, too) .

Let me add that Hal, who is not easily impressed, was mightily so at the tape of your performance and at his meeting with you. (This is what in my high school days was called a TL [Trade Last] and is a compliment passed along by a third party. Clearly, you deserve it.)

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Sondheim"

While Chenoweth remains one of Broadway's leading luminaries, she and Sondheim would never again cross paths in an official production.

In the end, it seems that Chenoweth chose correctly: Bounce! would unfortunately fail to find its footing, with Prince exiting the project as it was retitled Road Show for an eventual Off-Broadway debut at the Public Theater. Chenoweth would later appear on The West Wing in a different role, that of Annabeth Schott, where she appeared in more than 30 episodes of the drama.

And, of course, her choice to prioritize Wicked meant that she has been immortalized for a generation as the most popular witch of them all, Glinda the Good. Sometimes difficult choices work out for the best!

Have a great weekend, and check back next Friday for another feel good feature.

READ: Feel Good Friday: Bonnie Milligan Bought Autographed Photos of Victoria Clark at the Broadway Flea

Production Photos: Look Back at the Original Cast of Wicked on Broadway

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