Idina Menzel enchants fans in the Woodlands
Idina Menzel may forever be known as the “Frozen” lady.
Her big, belting voice gave life to tortured Queen Elsa in the Disney blockbuster. When it finally came time to sing “Let it Go” on Friday at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, she was joined by a chorus of awestruck kids from the crowd. It was impossibly adorable.
Everyone, in fact, seemed to know all the words. But there’s much more to Menzel’s voice and career. She had star turns in the original Broadway productions of “Rent” and “Wicked.” She also popped up on “Glee.”
What it means is that Menzel is a wonderfully diverse performer. She’s playful and flirty onstage, immediately engaging and fun to watch. It’s a dynamic reminiscent of Bette Midler’s live persona.
It was a brave choice to kick off with “Defying Gravity,” her signature “Wicked” number. But it also set a fiery tone for the night. She followed it with a spirited take on “Funny Girl” tune “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”
Menzel could have relied solely on her voice to carry the show. It has sparkle and wit and a piercing edge. She soared through “The Wizard and I” and emoted beautifully during Joni Mitchell’s “River.”
But her banter was equally entertaining. She joked about the lack of straight men in attendance (“Your wife dragged you here, didn’t she? You have no idea who I am”). She filled empty seats up front with fans from the back.
She teased her lighting guy about the smoke he insisted on to enhance the staging.
“I can taste the smoke,” she said. “It’s not like I have to sing really high notes or anything.”
She was interrupted by nearby police sirens during a terrific mashup of Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and the Police’s “Roxanne.” She quickly worked it into a joke.
“Prostitution,” she quipped. “They’re coming to get me.”
Broadway was (of course) a recurring theme. She zipped through “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Anything Goes.” And there’s still major spark in “Rent” standout “Take Me or Leave Me,” which incited Menzel to jump offstage and hand off the mic to fans for a riotously fun sequence.
Menzel dedicated a moving ballad reworking of “No Day But Today,” also from “Rent,” to show creator Jonathan Larson, who died just before it opened on Broadway in 1996. “Always Starting Over” from recent Broadway musical “If/Then” was another standout.
Amid the showtunes and soundtracks Menzel, seemed most connected to “Still I Can’t be Still,” an early original tune, and Radiohead’s “Creep.”
She poured angst and emotion into every word, and that energy pulsed through the crowd.