While audiences at home are watching her on FOX’s hit TV show “Glee,” Tony Award-winning actress Idina Menzel, star of Broadway’s “Wicked” and “RENT,” rocked Seattle live at the Paramount Theatre. In addition to singing music from the shows that rocketed her to national acclaim, the Broadway starlet performed songs by Cole Porter, some original music, and pop and Broadway medleys that included artists like The Police and Katy Perry.
There was actually a collective longing sigh from the packed audience when the orchestra, which included Seattle locals, began playing. Then, a larger-than-life shadow of the singer appeared on the curtains behind the musicians and crooned “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (a lovely allusion to “The Wizard of Oz”). When Idina Menzel emerged from the curtains, she was draped in a flouncy white gown and spritely skipped to the front of the stage to thunderous applause.
Concert highlights included her sweet rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” and Katy Perry’s “Firework,” which she revealed she uses to set the romantic mood for her and her husband actor Taye Diggs. During “Take Me or Leave Me” from “RENT,” Menzel ventured into the house and chose three audience members to sing verses before inviting them onstage for bows. Her somber performance of “No Day But Today” was heart-wrenching, especially following her emotional speech about the late playwright Jonathan Larson. The audience lost it when she sang “Defying Gravity,” which forever will be her song.
Her best backstage stories included her (very) brief interaction with personal hero Barbra Streisand and why she chucked the heels and began performing barefoot during all her concerts. The naughty nature of some her comments juxtaposed her soft, at-times hesitant speech, causing some to believe that she had a sore throat. Between numbers she impishly munched on a plate of gummie bears, which she explained she chewed when her throat was particularly dry. At one point (“so you don’t think I’m taking drugs,” she quipped), Menzel began dispensing the candies to lucky audience members in the front row. All doubt on her stamina was erased when she unleashed her powerful voice on the next number. Idina Menzel, even if at half-mast, is still a formidible force to be reckoned with.
She also spoke of her foundation A Broader Way, which sponsors a ten-day performing arts camp for innercity girls to learn leadership skills and nurture the burgeoning artists within, culminating in a performance at Columbia University. Friend and Tony-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori (“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “Caroline, or Change,” and “Shrek the Musical”) serves as Camp Director.
The audience leapt to its feet three times at the end, coaxing her back on stage for two encores, including a sensational never-before-heard song by “Next to Normal” lyricist Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kit. Menzel’s deep love and gratitude toward her fans is palpable and made for a very genuine and enjoyable evening with an extraoardinarily talented friend.
For more reviews and theatre news, check out: http://www.examiner.com/a-contemporary-theatre-in-seattle/jasmine-joshua