Broadway, television, movies, motherhood, symphony concerts, it seems there is nothing Idina Menzel cannot do. And having heard her roof-raising voice live in concert tonight, two thousand screaming fans know have an even clearer understanding of the basis for her great success.
A performer in a musical leading role may sing around five songs at most during a show, so to go nonstop for almost two hours through an incredible range of moods, styles and dynamics is just incredible. Menzel’s candid, breathless passion, highly individual flair, and raw, tender humanity had the crowd on her side throughout, and the generous sprinkling of signature songs did not hurt either.
Partially satiating the Wicked frenzy was the first order, with Menzel teasing the audience with a few lines from that other Oz musical before making her first appearance with the rousing opener “The Wizard and I.” Cue the first of several standing ovations throughout the concert.
In an elegant but comfortable black dress and bare feet, Menzel appeared in an electrically hyper mood, her thrill of being on stage stimulating the enthusiastic crowd even more. While the general running of a concert is necessarily scripted, Menzel’s energy and delight gave her stories a spontaneous and unpolished (in the best way) edge. Her inspiration from Beyonce’s trip on stage in concert, her early life as a Long Island wedding singer (complete with Michael Jackson choreography), her love and affection for departed talents Marvin Hamlisch and Rent composer Jonathan Larson, all came gushing out as if confided exclusively to us.
Besides the powerhouse voice, Menzel demonstrated a distinct gift for expression of lyrics. This was used to humorous effect when explaining why Whitney Houston’s “Saving All My Love For You” was not the greatest choice as a wedding song, and why “Pokerface” was a bizarre selection for the mother/daughter reunion of Rachel and Shelby on Glee.
Menzel sang a stirring version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” (heard just last week (as the Judy Collins version) as the closing song on the Mad Men season six finale) and a beautiful mash-up of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and Sting’s “Roxanne.” Menzel paid tribute to Hamlisch with the song she sang at his funeral, “At The Ballet,” closely followed by the soaring anthem “What I Did for Love.”
Singing Rent’s sassy duet “Take Me Or Leave Me,” Menzel declared she needed a partner so she took to the auditorium. Matt and Steven did a great job but the highlight was Hayley Piterman who ran down from the dress circle to give a terrific impromptu performance (Piterman played Maureen last year in BuSTCo’s Rent and surely never imagined at the time she would be duetting with original Maureen, Idina Menzel!). This crowd-pleasing segment wrapped with a guest visit to the stage from Menzel’s West End Wicked co-star Helen Dallimore.
Paying tribute to Larson, Menzel sang a gorgeous version of the “No Day But Today” motif from Rent, which, she explained, the original cast would sing each night to keep themselves grounded and focused.
An acoustic, a capella rendition of “For Good” demonstrated the power and lyrical beauty of Menzel’s mighty voice.
Of course it would not be an Idina Menzel concert without her all time hit “Defying Gravity,” and Menzel certainly did not disappoint, leaving the crowd on their feet roaring with approval.
As an encore, Menzel gave us “Learn To Live Without,” which was a sneak peek from her next Broadway show, If/Then, by Next to Normal composers Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey and to be directed by Rent’s Michael Greif.
The final encore, West Side Story’s “Somewhere,” plus a quick wave from adorable infant Walker Diggs, sent the audience out smiling and beaming at the wonderful evening they had just shared.
Oh, and in case you have not seen it, here is the staircase trip by Beyonce to which Menzel referred.
This review published on Theatre People 30 June 2013