Idina Menzel proved she’s a bonafide star at last night’s Altria Theatre Performance
Believe everything you’ve heard, Idina Menzel is an exceptional performer. The singer/actress/performer got her start in Broadway’s Rent back in 1996 and continued her rise by playing the Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, in the musical Wicked. However it wasn’t until 2013’s megahit Frozen that Menzel became both a chart topper and a household name.
When Menzel was announced as a touring act, I was admittedly skeptical. How could someone who built their career singing musicals translate that to a solo act? My skepticism proved to be entirely misplaced, as Menzel proved she not only has the vocals to blow us away, but the personality to draw in and keep a crowd’s attention.
As anyone who’s seen her in any of her many of her nominated roles can tell you, she’s the real deal: talented and authentic. Menzel began her performance by descending a small staircase in the center of the stage and belting out a rendition of ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked. Not content to simply stand in front of the crowd and sing, Menzel immediately began engaging the crowd after finishing her first song.
“I love you too,” Menzel said to in response to a man in the front row before adding “You’re hot too. It’s a shame you’re probably gay.”
Menzel continued to saunter across the stage throughout her performance, stopping occasionally to give her high-heeled feet a rest and joke about how one of the downsides to being more famous meant bigger stages and more walking.
“It’s a good thing I can dance and walk in heels,” said Menzel. “Wouldn’t want to fall while singing ‘Defying Gravity’.”
Those expecting Menzel to stick to her Broadway songs were quickly silenced as Menzel shook things up, performing a few of her own tracks, as well as covering an interesting slew of other artist’s work.
Highlighting the versatility of Menzel’s voice were her covers of ‘Roxanne’ by The Police and ‘Creep’ by Radiohead. ‘Roxanne’ felt right at home escaping Menzel’s lips as her body formed a black silhouette against the now bright red backdrop. The highs of ‘Roxanne’ were only matched by the emotional lows of ‘Creep’, with Menzel’s powerful voice lending further power to the famously somber track.
Paying homage to where she got her start, Menzel performed ‘Take Me or Leave Me’ from Rent, the first song she was ever known for. About halfway through her performance she threw convention to the wind and went out into the crowd to find help in singing the rest. One self-identified straight man, two grade-school girls, one tone deaf man, and two self-proclaimed singers all had their nights made as Menzel shared the microphone with them for a few precious minutes, after posing for selfies of course.
Menzel shared some background on her involvement with Rent and how the man behind the show, Jonathan Larson, and how he had died the day before their first show. After being handed a tissue from a woman in the audience, Menzel wiped away some tears and sang one if the final songs from Rent, ‘No Day But Today’, urging the audience to take each day as a gift.
The final song of the night was ‘Let It Go’ of course, the fan favorite hallmark fromFrozen which made Menzel’s tour possible. Despite having heard every girl I know under the age of 25 sing Let It Go for the last year and a half I wasn’t prepared for the energy that enveloped the crowd. Menzel hardly needed to invite the crowd to sing along as soon the Altria theatre was filled by the voices of giddy adults finding as much joy in the lyrics as the 6 year-old girls it was intended for.
In what will undoubtedly be one of the strangest things I’ll ever see performed, Menzel managed to organically turn ‘Let It Go’ into a jam session which turned into ‘Give It Away’ by The Red Hot Chili Peppers before returning to ‘Let It Go.’
I went into the performance not sure what to expect but left in love with Menzel. She breathes the type of earnestness and authenticity that can’t be faked, something made all the more impressive due to her staggering talents and success. Menzel is the real deal: a bonafide star.
Photo credit: Amber Searls / SMG Richmond
Tyler Hammel is a college student who has an unhealthy obsession with comic books. He’s a proud cinephile, owning a sizable film collection that lets you know he doesn't have any friends. An aspiring filmmaker, Tyler currently works with the VCU student organization The Horn RVA, a group of like-minded video journalists with a passion for Richmond based music. When not crafting his own bio Tyler can be found misusing commas,
Menzel has only expanded her music career since Frozen, releasing a self-titled album this past September and continuing to tour worldwide.January 23, 2017
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