NEW YORK — Back from a few months in Los Angeles, where she was shooting several movies as well as her recurring role on “The West Wing,” Kristin Chenoweth breezes into Rebecca Taylor’s boutique on Mott Street with a major tan. She’s not just bronzed — she’s positively glowing, partly because she’s back in the city she calls her home; partly because she’s about to embark on a shopping spree.
“I’m so happy, you have no idea,” says Chenoweth with a giggle. Carrying a Prada bag, she has on a black top by Shoshanna, a pair of black Manolo Blahnik boots that she got doing a guest appearance on “Frasier” and her “fat jeans.” She would have worn her Sevens, she explains, but she gained five pounds out in California. But at least she’s comfortable and ready to go. Because if there’s one thing Chenoweth loves, it’s shopping: “New York is my home, theater is my home and a clothing store is my home.
“I have a problem,” she adds, though she doesn’t plan on doing a whole lot about it. She doesn’t take drugs, is not a smoker and drinks only the occasional alcoholic beverage. So shopping has become a release. “I have some friends who want to stage an intervention. Especially my business manager.”
The actress has stolen many a Broadway show, including “Wicked” and “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown”; was the star of her own failed sitcom, “Kristin”; has roles on the horizon in “Bewitched,” with Nicole Kidman, “The Pink Panther,” with Steve Martin and “Running With Scissors,” in which she plays Annette Bening’s lesbian lover, and her album of inspirational songs called “As I Am” will hit stores Tuesday. (She released her first album, “Let Yourself Go,” a collection of Broadway standards, in 2001.) But at 4 feet 11 and a size zero, Chenoweth can’t always find clothes that fit. So she makes a game of finding labels that suit her frame perfectly.
Chenoweth has not quite grown out of Target: “I just bought a Maltese purse there. A purse with Malteses on it!” On the lower end, there’s Bebe — which produces size zeros, even if admitting that she shops there makes Chenoweth cringe — and Wet Seal, where, she says, whatever you buy, “it’s not going to last more than that night.” She prefers the looks of Trina Turk and Shoshanna, who take into account her bust.
“I have big boobs and I’m wearing a minimizer. Welcome to 32D. God given,” she announces as she tries on a sweater that overaccentuates her chest. “It’s all about the bust. Let’s just call a spade a spade.” The salesperson suggests the piece might look better if it was fastened in a different way, perhaps with a brooch. But Chenoweth, who has had her share of fashion disasters, including the time Nicole Miller sent her a tube top and the actress wore it as a skirt, decides against the sweater.
She also passes up suits, because she wears enough of them as media consultant Annabeth Schott on “The West Wing.” And she decides against a demure green dress, but not before suggesting it as part of her makeover plan for Paris Hilton. “You don’t have to look like a whore all the time,” is a Chenoweth credo. She immediately goes into a short monologue about the way kids dress today: “There might be nights you want to look like a slut, but not every night. I’m not a prude, but it’s all about class. OK, that’s my spiel.”
Instead she goes straight for a few frilly tops, a bright yellow dress (“Call me crazy,” she says, “but cute, right?”), and a cardigan with silver sparkles.
“Anything pink and glittery with butterflies,” says Jill Fritzo, Chenoweth’s publicist, of her client’s taste in clothes. They have a history of fiendish shopping together. “We spent, like, seven hours in Theory.”
“I love butterflies,” Chenoweth squeals. “What I love about Rebecca Taylor is the way she mixes up sexy and sweet. You know, Christians can be sexy, too.”
Though she converted from Baptism to nondenominational Christian when she was 8, Chenoweth hasn’t forgotten her roots. Her new album is something of a throwback to the songs she grew up on in Oklahoma. She’d always wanted to sing gospel, and she was influenced by the likes of Sandi Patty, Dusty Springfield and Reba McEntire. Her tastes have since opened up to Rufus Wainwright, Tom Waits and, especially, Eminem. “The Christians are all going to have a heart attack when they hear that.”
Along with “Taylor the Latte Boy,” an ode to an especially cute Starbucks barista that Chenoweth has made semifamous, her new album features religious-themed songs by Amy Grant, Trisha Yearwood, and a song that had been previously written for Faith Hill. “I’ve put a couple of Jesus songs on there, too,” Chenoweth winks. “But people will have to just get over that.”
As Chenoweth catalogues her purchases — she ends up with seven pieces, including the pink cropped cardigan, a cream lace tunic, the yellow linen dress and a brown camisole and blouse — she pauses for a minute to reflect where she’s at in terms of her career. (As for her physical location, she lives on the upper Upper West Side, and couldn’t find Mott Street if she tried). She’s still learning how to work in front of the camera. For a scene with Bening, she gave it her all for each and every take, crying 16 times in a row. “You have got to be dehydrated,” Bening told her.
But still, Chenoweth is working on being taken seriously. In a taxi last week, the cab driver thought she was a student and asked her where she was in college. “I could be your mother, Abdul,” Chenoweth told him.