'Glee' guy Matthew Morrison sings Kristin Chenoweth's praises at the Geffen
It took only a couple of "Glee" episodes and the William McKinley High School glee club was smitten with Kristin Chenoweth, the pint-size powerhouse who took a leave from Broadway to play a visiting grad with serious pipes. So Matthew Morrison bounded to the Geffen Playhouse on Monday to sing her praises at the “Backstage at the Geffen” gala, where he presented her with the Distinction in Theater Award.
“My costar Jane Lynch had this to say about Kristen: ‘Because of her compact size and my freakish giantism, I’ve never actually looked her in the eye, but boy, do I feel her genius positively seeping through her pores,’” Morrison said dreamily.
Chenoweth, who’s in rehearsals for a “Promises, Promises” revival on Broadway, responded with a jog down memory lane.
"It really sucked to work opposite you in ‘Glee’ because you’re ugly and not very talented,” she told Morrison.
Can’t you just feel the love?
Accepting her award, Chenoweth, all 4 feet 11 inches of her, thanked her parents in absentia for “the greatest gift of self-esteem -- it’s the best thing you can give a child, to take them to the theater and tell them they’re not too short, their voice isn’t too squeaky, you can do what you want to do and someday they’ll build a podium that you can see over.”
It was a big night for the Westwood theater. At the annual fund-raiser, Rita Wilson surprised founder and producing director Gil Cates with the news that the board of directors had named the main stage after him. And Clint Eastwood, a rare sight at Hollywood events, showed up to present the Distinction in Service Award to Barry Meyer, president and chief exec of Warner Bros.
Wilson also tackled a Hollywood urban legend as one of several celebrities spilling tales of show biz life as part of the Geffen’s distinctive annual fund-raiser. An L.A. native, she got her Screen Actors Guild card at 16 and began to ride the audition circuit, courtesy of her mom’s green Barracuda.
"I auditioned in May for a big Hollywood movie with a big Hollywood producer, who I think shall remain nameless for this story, but he was short,” she said. That summer, she went to Greece and when she returned, she had a message: "The big little producer wanted to see me. I go into his office…and he says, ‘Why don’t you come here?' And he pats the couch. 'So tell me about your summer.... Do you have a boyfriend?'After ascertaining that the boyfriend was in Greece, the producer then offered to be her "first."
"Needless to say, I didn’t get the part, and I ran to the Barracuda screaming."
Also spilling, singing or performing on the violin were Dick Van Dyke, Alan Cumming, Beau Bridges, Christina Applegate, French Stewart, Ashley Brown and Sarah Chang.
With all that star power, the evening just whipped by. As Cates put it: “Tonight has gone faster than the Toyota Prius.”
Photos: Honoree Kristin Chenoweth, top right, with Kristen Bell at the "Backstage at the Geffen" gala on Monday in L.A. Clint Eastwood, left, meets Chenoweth on the red carpet. Credits: Matt Sayles / Associated Press, top; Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images, left.
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