Hollywood Bowl opens on a breeze with Kristin Chenoweth, Go-Go's

Hollywood Bowl opens on a breeze with Kristin Chenoweth, Go-Go's
Kristin Chenoweth performs Saturday during the Hollywood Bowl's opening-night concert. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times)

Anybody with a microphone seemed eager to commemorate some milestone or another at the opening night concert at the Hollywood Bowl.

The actress Taraji P. Henson told the crowd that the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame -- which inducted Kristin Chenoweth, the Go-Go's and Pink Martini on Saturday -- was marking its 15th anniversary.


In her introduction of Pink Martini, Barbara Eden mentioned that the quirky pop group, once known for playing the "I Dream of Jeannie" theme song, formed 20 years ago.

And Thomas Wilkins, conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, pointed out proudly that the iconic venue's refurbished shell was entering its second decade of service.

But if the Bowl's all-star kickoff to its summer season seemed to risk an overload of ceremonial enumeration, the stars themselves managed to keep things light and breezy. Veteran entertainers still looking toward the next gig, they performed as though the show were no big deal -- even when it clearly was.

"This is definitely a pinch-me moment," said Chenoweth, honored Saturday by Carol Burnett, whose affectionate speech appeared to bring the Broadway star to tears.

Known for her roles in "Wicked" and on TV's "Glee," Chenoweth zipped through crowd-pleasing show tunes such as "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again," the often-lugubrious "Phantom of the Opera" number she said she grew up listening to in her tiny Oklahoma hometown.

For "Popular," from "Wicked," she sang lines in German, Japanese and Italian, attesting to the musical's international success (and slyly demonstrating her own vocal dexterity).

And to follow up a much-discussed bit from her 2013 Bowl concert -- in which she duetted with an audience member who turned out to be a very capable singing instructor -- she brought her "Glee" costar Lea Michele onstage to do "For Good."

Was the touchy-feely "Wicked" selection a total showstopper? Nah. And how refreshing that was: less dueling divas than simply a couple of pals -- "my dear little nugget," Chenoweth called Michele -- as the two singers put across an appealing informality that showed Broadway needn't always be about indomitable personality.

The Go-Go's made a similar point with their performance, which had no use for the winking irony that so many of their early-'80s pop peers have turned to in recent years.

Blazing through no-frills renditions of tunes like "Vacation" and "Our Lips Are Sealed" -- hits that first got the band to the Hollywood Bowl in 1982 -- the Go-Go's reminded the audience of their roots in the L.A. punk scene alongside comparatively radio-unfriendly acts like Fear and the Germs.

And when the group did spring for a bit of spectacle, as in a set-ending "We Got the Beat" that included extra percussion from a USC drum corps, it used the added energy to keep going, not to congratulate itself.

Pink Martini boosted its rhythmic attack as well in opening Saturday's show, which an L.A. Philharmonic representative said raised more than $1 million for the organization's music-education initiatives. Bandleader Thomas Lauderdale dedicated a thumping rendition of the classic samba "Brazil" to sports fans invested in the World Cup.

Expansive but propulsive, the performance felt like a valuable object lesson for the promising young music students in the house: You can go big, it seemed to say, without bogging down.

Twitter: @mikaelwood