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Idina Menzel gets personal during Utah show benefiting charities

Idina Menzel stripped away the characters she usually portrays on stage and bore her soul to a sold-out crowd in Orem Thursday night as part of a concert featuring local artists and benefiting local charities.

Menzel, known for voicing Elsa in the Disney movie “Frozen” and originating the role of Elphaba in “Wicked,” headlined the third annual Utah’s Stars & Friends show, which kicked off with Utah performers Ben Hale, Lexi Walker and Gentri. Proceeds from the show, held at Utah Valley University’s UCCU Center, will go to the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and Operation Underground Railroad.

“Our goal is to get Utah talent on the stage with a national act and create a really big, fantastic show while benefiting local charities,” said Nate Keller, Utah’s Stars & Friends co-producer.

He and co-producer Carl Bacon, who has been with Stadium of Fire for 35 years, were able to work with Menzel’s management to add a stop in Utah on her world tour.

“Every season, we think of what would be of interest to our audience and work to bring them in and show off the fantastic talent we have here in Utah,” Bacon said.

Menzel certainly proved a draw.

She talked with the crowd throughout the show, talking about the lessons characters, such as Elizabeth in “If/Then,” have taught her about her life. She powered through a medley of songs by Ethel Merman — one of the great women “who doesn’t get enough attention anymore,” Menzel noted — that included “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

Menzel also talked about the times when she was having a hard time and didn’t want to get out of bed, days everyone has after a broken heart or when something hurtful is said.

“It’s hard to get up and sing a song like ‘Let It Go’ on those days. You want another song on those days,” she said as she launched into a haunting rendition of Radiohead’s “Creep.”

While some moments of the show were somber, it was overall an upbeat performance with a lot of audience interaction. When she sang her duet “Take Me or Leave Me” from “Rent,” she walked through the audience in electric yellow slippers after having kicked off her silver high heels and auditioned a few audience members to sing the secondary part with her. Two of the singers, Austin and Rosie, gave heartfelt performances and were invited on stage to sing with her, much to the audience’s delight.

She ended the show with “Let It Go” and invited all the small children to gather near the stage to sing. Dozens of kids, one dressed in a full Elsa costume, joined her to sing the chorus three times.

“We can do this 10 times kids, the grownups won’t mind, they’ve heard this song at least 1,000 times at home, right?” she joked.

She thanked the show’s organizers for hosting the concert and donating to charity.

“This is a pretty incredible evening. It’s inspiring to see such generous people we are here to support,” Menzel said. “It’s a very selfless thing to do to try to make a difference out there and make yourself vulnerable. I’m very flattered and humbled to be here tonight.”

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