Kristin Chenoweth ready for Oscar stage
( AP ) - Sets are being built. A stretch of Hollywood Boulevard is closed. Rehearsals have begun. With the writers strike finally in the rear-view mirror, round-the-clock preparations are under way for Sunday's Academy Awards.
On Tuesday, Oscar's head honchos traded their offices at the Kodak Theatre for seats inside the landmark Capitol Records building, where conductor Bill Conti and his 61-piece orchestra practiced the year's nominated songs. Joining them was Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth and singer Marlon Saunders, who are set to perform "That's How You Know" from the movie "Enchanted."
Chenoweth, a Tony Award winner and film and TV star, said it's "nerve-racking" to prepare for the Oscar stage.
"It's the biggest audience I've ever had," the 4-foot, 11-inch performer with the outsized voice told The Associated Press. "I've played many of the famous concert halls in the world but this is something altogether different. I'm just going to try to perform the song and make it about the music and not get too nervous."
Her nerves didn't show during the rehearsal. The diminutive star even warmed up with an operatic aria that drew applause from the orchestra's brass section, which filled half the room. The other half held the strings section and 16 backup singers. Conti wielded his baton from the center as Chenoweth and Saunders donned headphones inside individual glass booths.
Show producer Gil Cates and director Louis J. Horvitz, along with associate producer Michael Seligman and talent coordinator Danette Herman, watched from soft sofas in the adjacent mixing room. The song was recorded so the singers could get a sense of their performance when backed by the orchestra.
"I have one bad note," Chenoweth confessed as she finished a take. "I had a big crack."
She listened to the playback and cringed when she heard the offending note. They tried it again.
"Very good. Very good," Cates told her. "I just love hearing you sing. It's superb."
Chenoweth smiled and curtsied in response.
She was invited just weeks ago to perform the song and had to learn it in a hurry. The composer and writer, Steven Schwartz and Alan Menken, who are nominated for three of their "Enchanted" tunes, are colleagues of hers from Broadway.
"If they're happy, I'll be happy," she said.
But first she's got to deal with those nerves.
"I'm trying to think of it like another gig, even though I know it's not the Met or Carnegie Hall. It's the Oscars and it's several billion people," she said, pretending to gag at the overwhelmingness of it all.
"I'm really excited about my dress and I'm really excited about the whole night. Of course I'm rooting for anything from 'Enchanted' to win."