I wondered who was going to show up Wednesday night at Chrysler Hall to see Idina Menzel perform. The 8:00 pm start time seemed late for little girls dressed up in blue Elza gowns to hear the Oscar winning song, “Let It Go.” There were a few little girls there, but they had to wait until the finale to hear that song–more about that later.
It turns out that Hampton Roads is filled with fans of Broadway musicals, or maybe fans of the Broadway shows Wicked and Rent, or maybe fans of the big, beautiful sound of Idina Menzel. Whatever the case, Chrysler Hall was filled, and every time the orchestra begin to play one of the show tunes from Wicked or Rent, the audience roared in anticipation and then cheered in appreciation.
Idina Menzel is extraordinary. She is a week away from finishing up a three month long, 53 city, 10-country world tour. Norfolk was the 46th city on this marathon. She was singing her heart out in Pittsburgh the night before and heading to Boston on a bus today. She told the crowd that all she’s ever wanted to do was “stand on a stage and sing to an audience.” She has a voice of steel. It’s a beautiful, big voice of steel. Her voice has been compared to the great Broadway belter, Ethel Merman. I would put her voice right up there with Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion or Cher.
Idina Menzel can change her voice to suit the song. She is able to sound dark and smoky when she sings Joni Mitchell’s “River,” play the role of the misunderstood Elphaba, “the original green girl” as she sings “Defying Gravity,” and sound just a little bit country when she sings a song from her album, “Stand.” Then just to prove she is a Broadway belter, she turned off the microphone and sang “For Good” from Wicked, acapella, as a thank you to the audience. It was beautiful.
image | Robin Wong
I’ve got one complaint. I know you, the audience, love Idina Menzel. I can feel the energy when everyone is having a great time, but please do not sing along with her. I want to hear the voice of Idina Menzel and her talented orchestra. I do not want to hear the slightly off-key voices of the four ladies directly behind me. Idina Menzel offered up several opportunities for audience participation. It was fun and that was the right time to do your singing at Chrysler Hall. Otherwise save your singing for the karaoke bar or your own living room.
Idina Menzel drew from the Tidewater talent pool while she was here. She travels with a core group of musicians, but supplemented with some wonderful local string and brass players. It’s great to hear a full orchestra behind such a talented performer. I could feel the music in my bones.
Idina Menzel also had some talented local singers come up and sing a duet with her from her first starring role in Rent on Broadway. “Take Me or Leave Me” was staged as an “impromptu duet,” but I can’t imagine she just randomly pulled these young people out of the audience. They were just too good. The audience loved it.
“Let It Go” was the grand finale, and there were more than just a few little girls (and boys) who managed to stay awake until 10:00 pm. They got to come up on stage with Idina Menzel, sing along with her, and give her a hug.
Idina Menzel has an extraordinary voice, a wicked sense of humor and feet that just can’t take the high heels all night long. She is a girl from Long Island, who practiced the correct pronunciation of “Norfolk” before she came out on stage, and then gave a fantastic show.
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