She played Glinda in Wicked and Charlie Brown’s sister Sally in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, — not to mention a litany of TV roles — but Broadway titan Kristin Chenoweth is now geared-up to take on the extremely personal role of a lifetime. The upcoming Tammy Faye Bakker musical is a passion project for Chenoweth, in which she will portray the televangelist and talk show host.
Chenoweth told RuPaul and Michelle Visage on their What’s the Tea podcast that she wants to honor Tammy Faye Bakker because she was “the first of a very special type of woman.” The televangelist “understood who she was, and she loved everyone,” and Chenoweth feels now is the time to pay homage.
(It’s also worth noting that RuPaul narrated the astounding documentary The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, which was directed by Fenton Bailey and produced by Drag Race producers World of Wonder).
On the podcast RuPaul got visibly choked up speaking about Bakker, saying she was like “a Pollyanna” in the way she’s a woman “very aware of the darkness but chooses to see the light.” RuPaul got extremely emotional telling the story of how Bakker came to him in a dream years ago and said “Ru, focus on people’s innocence, not their guilt.”
Chenoweth went on to tell her own personal story of how her grandmother would donate money to Bakker as a child, and when her father would ask why he was giving these people her money, her grandmother would respond kindly, “I don’t know, I just believe her.”
Chenoweth feels it’s her duty to tell the story of this Tammy Faye Bakker musical in the best way possible.
The stage production is being developed with producer Mark Platt, who produced Wicked and is the father of Ben Platt, Tony winner for Dear Evan Hansen. Henry Krieger of Dreamgirls and Sideshow fame is behind the music, and Krieger is actually who approached Chenoweth with the initial idea.
Chenoweth told Broadway World in January 2016 that she participated in an invitation-only reading for the Tammy Faye Bakker musical in June 2011, staged by Robert Longbottom. In that reading, Hunter Foster portrayed Jim Bakker, Nancy Opel played Betty Ford, Clarke Thorell played Jimmy Swaggart, Robert Petkoff played Pat Robertson, and Bradley Dean played Jerry Falwell.
Time is currently being devoted to the book for the Tammy Faye Bakker musical, as Chenoweth says she wants the story to be right and do Bakker justice. The actress feels there’s a lot of humor in Bakker’s story, and she wants to convey that. Regarding the musical’s format, Chenoweth says “It might be a moment in time, it might be from heaven, it might be both.”
With Bakker’s life story going from televangelist to talk show host — alongside the openly gay Jim J Bullock — her life’s journey is simply made for the stage. With the upcoming Broadway year offering up the stories of several divas, from Donna Summer to Cher, it looks like the Tammy Faye Bakker musical will be in great company on the Great White Way.