Menzel powers through illness
High-wattage singing actor Idina Menzel has acquired many titles over the years: stage star who won a Tony for playing Elphaba in “Wicked”; originator of Maureen in “Rent”; TV star of “Glee,” where she plays a vocal coach and mother of lead Lea Michele; and real-life mother of 2-year-old Walker Diggs, her son with TV and stage hunk husband Taye Diggs.
On Saturday night in Minneapolis, Menzel added stand-up comic to her list of skills. And she did it out of necessity, even if it seemed a bit reckless.
Medicated and coughing because of what she described as a viral illness that took away most of her upper register, she powered through her “Barefoot at the Symphony” concert with entertaining wit and self-deprecating humor. Menzel poured out her soul for her fans on such numbers as the anthemic “No Day but Today,” from “Rent.” Her well-wishers returned the love and gave her a well-earned standing ovation.
“I want you to get your money’s worth, so I might strip or something,” she joked, but she remained fully clothed, in a floor-length dress.
When Menzel said that she would answer intimate questions, audience members quickly fired them off.
“Are you still breast-feeding?” one lady wanted to know.
Menzel pivoted to the ASL interpreter, asking her to sign breast-feeding.
“Sexy, aah?” she said.
Hers was a commendable performance, even if it may have been unwise for her to do it, given the potential long-term damage she could do to her voice.
Menzel segued from U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” to Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” In between numbers such as “Defying Gravity” and “For Good,” both from “Wicked,” Menzel regaled the Orpheum Theatre audience with quips and anecdotes from her show-biz life.
Menzel, who performed with her regular arranger and rhythm section plus a pick-up orchestra, was playful and poignant. She radiated sunshine despite her personal fog. And her openness to having audience members join her onstage had a practical side. It gave her a moment to rest.
A momentary upstaging occurred when aspiring Twin Cities singer-actor Michelle Christina Delgado showed up from out of the audience. She proved to be a powerhouse on “Take Me or Leave Me,” a track from “Rent.”
Delgado, who was an understudy for “Rent” at the Lab in Minneapolis, earned and deserved an instant ovation. I don’t know about her acting capabilities, but her singing was a beautiful argument for why she should at least get a good look from casting directors at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, the Guthrie or wherever else.