Idina Menzel’s Jones Beach show tells the story of her career
Idina Menzel came home for the evening, joined by several thousand friends at the beach.
The international star from Syosset, riding the “Frozen” wave of her smash hit “Let It Go,” shared feelings about her Nikon at Jones Beach Theater debut Friday night, following her “Defying Gravity” opening number.
“Have I made it to Jones Beach?” the Tony winner (“Wicked”) asked. “I’ve been coming here all my life. We always had pretty good seats, but not from here,” she said, with a sweeping gesture encompassing the stage.
Although the darkening skies — Menzel’s show started 40 minutes late — bore no threat, she launched into “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” a Streisand salute. Accompanied by a 16-piece orchestra led by pianist Clifford Carter, the concert sometimes recalled Jones Beach’s Guy Lombardo Big Band Era (“No Business Like Show Business”), accessorized by a light show veiled in diaphanous curtains.
Menzel’s well-crafted, 18-song set list touched on career milestones, including her most recent Broadway success (“If/Then”). But she got personal, too. Shedding a layer resembling a beach cover-up in gold (matching her new hair color) and her shoes (barefoot at the beach in a little black dress), Menzel shared a few poignant moments. After displaying huskier qualities of her piercing voice in Joni Mitchell’s “River,” Menzel tearfully recalled inspiring words from her fourth-grade teacher who died Friday morning. Although she moved on with “Love for Sale” (Cole Porter), “Roxanne” (The Police) and “Creep” (Radiohead), Menzel grew wistful again as she expressed joy for career triumphs while acknowledging “complicated” personal disappointments, alluding to her divorce from Taye Diggs, a co-star on her “Rent” breakthrough. She enlisted “volunteers” — obviously well-voiced ringers — on “Take Me or Leave Me.” Recalling “Rent” creator Jonathan Larson, who died the night before the show opened, she offered “live in the moment” advice with an audience-shared rendition of “No Day But Today.”
But those audience participations paled next to “Let It Go” in which little girls who’d stayed awake until 10:15 accompanied her onstage.
Menzel’s two encores — “Tomorrow” was the second — featured “Child,” a song she wrote for her son, asking, “Let me see the world like you.”