Idina Menzel brings down the house of Appalachian State’s Schaefer Center
When you are in the presence of a star, you know it. That was the atmosphere at last nights Idina Menzel concert in Boone, N.C.
If you are a Broadway musical fan, then you know Ms. Menzel for her roles in the iconic shows RENT and Wicked. If not, you may know her for her role as Lea Michele’s biological mother on “Glee.” Ms. Menzel is no stranger to the limelight, especially after her Tony-winning performance as Wicked’s original Elphaba elevated her status to the top woman on Broadway. Seeing her sing barefoot while backed up by a full orchestra is another matter altogether.
Singing the first verse of Judy Garland’s infamous “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” offstage, and then bouncing into the spotlight to surge into Wicked’s “The Wizard and I” was just the beginning at last nights concert. Selections of U2 and The Police to Broadway showstopper “Don’t Rain on My Parade” showed off Ms. Menzel’s amazing range. It was her wide repertoire and wit that kept the audience guessing and laughing.
In between numbers Ms. Menzel was very upfront with attendees, telling stories about how she was a wedding singer on her native Long Island when she was a teenager. Or how “schlepping through the airport with her then-newborn son led her to do all her shows, while on tour, in her bare feet. Ms. Menzel’s comedic personality kept the majority of the show light, but there were a select few emotional points which left very few dry eyes in the house.
These came when Ms. Menzel brought a piano bench onstage, saying that while still an up-and-coming performer she toured with the late Martin Hamlisch who taught her “so much” in the world of performing. Kneeling on the bench, she spoke with obvious emotion about how “Martin would always invite me to sit with him at the piano which I considered sacred space.” She then performed Hamlisch’s “At the Ballet,” flawlessly, which she was invited to sing at his memorial service last September. She said, “Out of all the songs that he wrote, this was the one song that he wanted performed at his memorial, and I was honored to sing it for him.”
Ms. Menzel also dedicated a number to the late Jonathan Larson, the composer of RENT, which her first professional job. “I quit my wedding singer job because I got RENT, but for those of you who don’t know, Jonathan passed away the night of our final dress rehearsal,” she told the audience. Before segueing into RENT’s “No Day But Today she said, “Because of what happened, I always dedicate this song to Jonathan, and remember to live every day like it’s my last.”
Ms. Menzel rounded out the night with other well-known Broadway numbers such as “What I Did For Love,” and “Take Me or Leave Me” which brought the audience to their feet when Ms. Menzel sang with cast members of Appalachian’s production of RENT. She also performed her original song “God Save My Soul,” showing that she is not only a performer but a true songwriter.
Nothing quite prepared the audience for the second to last number of the night, however. An acappella version of “For Good” from Wicked, sung as a blessing from Ms. Menzel left the audience screaming for more. She graciously exited the stage only to be beckoned back for her iconic “Defying Gravity,” earning her one last standing ovation.
The entire concert only came to about two and a half hours in length but at the end, the entire audience felt they knew more about this charismatic woman than ever. It is very rare that you find a performer with the amount of fame that Ms. Menzel has experienced who is still so very natural. And despite all the achievements that Ms. Menzel has earned, she is still the Long Island girl who isn’t afraid to be her true self. This is precisely what made seeing Ms. Menzel so wonderful, and why her show should not be missed.