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Idina Menzel feels ‘the brightest spotlight’ at downtown Raleigh concert

Idina Menzel of “Frozen,” “Wicked” and “Rent” fame, owns the fact that she’s a diva. At her concert Wednesday night at Raleigh’s Red Hat Amphitheatre, Menzel’s impressive and powerful vocals were front and center, and her raw and self-deprecating personality shone through.

After mistaking the Raleigh Convention Center’s Shimmer Wall for being off due to the glare of the spotlight, Menzel proclaimed, “This spotlight is the brightest spotlight I’ve ever felt in my life – and I love it!”

It was an eclectic and non-stop show, and the audience was filled with little girls, some of whom dressed up as Elsa, Menzel’s ice queen character in the animated film “Frozen.”

She performed some of her most popular musical theater repertoire, including “Seasons of Love” from “Rent,” “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked,” “I’m Not That Girl” from “Wicked,” and, of course, “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” During “Let It Go,” she invited some of the little girls in the audience up on stage and onto the stairs to sing along with her, which made for a very extended version of the beloved song.

She also performed “Wind Beneath My Wings,” made famous by Bette Midler in “Beaches.” Menzel plays Midler’s character, C.C., in the 2017 remake.

She also sang some material from her new album, 2016’s “idina.” Out of these songs, “Queen of Swords,” which opened the concert, was an upbeat positivity anthem. “Perfect Story,” a heartfelt song to her son about her 2014 divorce with ex-husband Taye Diggs, was a tender moment in a show that often moved at breakneck pace.

Menzel showed off some anguished twirling during “I Do” with what had been her wings during “Defying Gravity” and “Wind Beneath My Wings” flowing around her. “I Do” is another song that appears to be about Diggs.

Menzel is not afraid of experimentation with a variety of genres, venturing into gospel and jazz territory as well. She covered Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady,” during which back-up singer Vanessa Bryan gave Menzel a run for her money.

Other backup musicians were not to be forgotten either – violinist Mazz Swift, cellist Marika Hughes and keyboardist Keith Cotton all added riveting touches to the music.

During her encore, Menzel performed jazz standards “Every Time We Say Goodbye” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” though she forgot some of the lyrics for the latter. It was still beautiful.

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