Menzel delivers plenty of fun, surprises
Saturday’s Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra concert with Idina Menzel brought an odd situation, one I never remember encountering before. The page detailing her concert had been torn from all the programs.
An usher slipped me a bootleg copy. He explained: “She didn’t want people to know what songs she was going to sing. She wanted it to be a surprise.”
If that was the reason, I liked it. I like surprises myself. And Menzel gave us plenty of them.
Kleinhans Music Hall was packed for Menzel, known not only for starring in “Rent” but also for her recent appearances on “Glee.”
Big as the concert was, it had the feeling of a private party. Menzel, in a gorgeous yellow gown, skipped from the wings. She did at least as much talking as singing, and she was laid-back and funny, and the audience felt free to yell comments at her. And she ate it up. It was all a lot of fun.
Once in a while a joke came up that I did not get and I realized it was because I am not in the “Glee” club. But I liked the show all the same.
Menzel has a voice that seems to know no limits as far as range and flexibility. She laughed once about how she had dared to reach up for an octave, how we had given her courage. But she sounds as if she can do anything she sets out to do, as far as vocals go.
From what I have seen of “Glee,” the show mixes up the music, and Menzel did that too. Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” was very affecting, preceded by a sweet, goofy story she told about how she fell on her face singing it in school. Her teacher, a man she had hoped to impress, had stopped her mid-song, and told her to think about what it was really about.
And so Menzel, hugging herself on the Kleinhans stage, did that. Then, to everyone’s surprise, she slipped into “Roxanne,” the rock hit about a call girl. You had to smile when she did that, but it wasn’t because it was ridiculous. It wasn’t. It was unusual, but she made it work.
“No Day But Today” from “Rent” was poignant. So was “I’m Not That Girl,” from “Wicked.” Menzel has vulnerability that makes songs like that wonderful.
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” rocked the house. We all went wild when Menzel, striking a hilarious pose, belted, “Buffalo, here I am!”
This was no show for kids. Menzel’s banter touched on all kinds of topics. She gave a bawdy account of how she met her husband, actor Taye Diggs, when they were both doing “Rent.”
I could have done without a song she wrote herself, not so much because it was political but because it was a lousy song. Menzel, like most singers, should leave the songwriting to the pros.
With “Poker Face,” we had what I believe is a first — the BPO playing a Lady Gaga song. It seemed strange to go from Cole Porter to “I’ll get him hot/And show him what I got”—but Menzel seemed to get the humor of it.
She also kidded around with the BPO. “Not only are they talented but they’re doing ‘Poker Face,’ ” she squealed.
For the concert’s first half, Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer gave us “Day By Day” from “Godspell,” sounding dated, and the overture to Bernstein’s “Candide,” sounding shiny and new. Orchestral music from “Gypsy” was perfect for the night.