Kristin Chenoweth

Singer Kristin Chenoweth performs Saturday at the Hippodrome. (Handout photo / March 4, 2011)

She isn't quite 5 feet tall, but Kristin Chenoweth has achieved uncommon stature in show business, thanks to consistently sizzling performances on Broadway, including an indelible portrayal of Glinda in "Wicked"that earned her a Tony nomination, and several television shows.

With just the slightest touch of hyperbole, "Glee"actor Chris Colfer neatly expressed Chenoweth's appeal after her guest appearance on that series, telling the Los Angeles Times that "working with Kristin is what I can imagine what a priest would go through if he worked with Jesus."

The Chenoweth aura is fueling her first national concert tour, which brings the Oklahoma-born artist to Baltimore this week for a performance to benefit the Hippodrome Foundation's educational and outreach projects. The 19-city tour, which started last month, has given the singing actress a fresh perspective.

"I'm used to doing a Broadway schedule, a movie schedule, things like that," she said. "This is hard, the hardest thing I've ever done. It's just like running a marathon. But it's so rewarding. The challenge is to stay healthy, and sleep, sleep, sleep. I need eight to nine hours a night. I'm living like a nun."

Chenoweth lets out a laugh.

"I make myself sound so wild, but it's really nothing like that," she said.

For the tour, Chenoweth, a soprano with a distinctively bright voice and exceptional technical control, has picked music from various stages of her career, including "Wicked" and the much less successful "Promises, Promises." There is room for selections from vintage musicals she wasn't in, along with songs she sang on "Glee."

"I chose what I wanted to sing," she said, "but I know it also has to be entertaining."

Count on hearing items from her latest album, "Some Lessons Learned," which has a decided country flavor.

"I'm from Oklahoma, so, of course, I love country music," said Chenoweth, 43. "Boy, did I have a good time making that album."

The concert also has room for a very golden oldie — as in 19th century. It's Stephen Foster's melancholy ballad "Hard Times Come Again No More," arranged by Broadway composer and lyricist Andrew Lippa.

"I've always loved 'Hard Times,'" Chenoweth said. "It was written in 1853, but it still works. So many people have asked me after the concert if I'm going to record it, even my 17-year-old niece, who listens to Drake and Lil Wayne. So maybe I'm doing something right by including it."

The tour is not just a stand-and-sing affair.

"There's a cast. There's movement and acting," Chenoweth said. "It's very well-crafted, a very full evening."

Handling a rich variety of musical genres in one evening comes naturally to Chenoweth, who studied musical theater at Oklahoma City University and went on to earn a master's degree there in opera performance.

"I wouldn't be able to do all of these styles if I hadn't had the training," she said. "That training has proven to be the ingredient to any success I've had. It's a real blessing."

Chenoweth took opera seriously in her college years, tackling such demanding coloratura roles as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's "The Magic Flute" and Marie in Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment."

Although she ended up moving in musical comedy circles after hitting New York, the operatic side of her background wasn't forgotten. In 2007, she became only the third musical theater star to perform a solo concert at the Metropolitan Opera House.

"That was a dream come true," Chenoweth said. "To see a sold-out house for me, that was kind of freaky. I did one song without a mike. It was amazing."