Fighting both the summer heat and a summer cold, Idina Menzel nonetheless stormed the stage at the Jiffy Lube Live arena on Saturday, July 18, 2015, and blew the (figurative) roof off the place. With her signature charm and authenticity, she was like a refreshing breeze, keeping the audience enthralled with a parade of her famous Broadway and movie hits.
Menzel, long a Broadway figure with her performance in the original company of Rent and then her Tony Award-winning performance as “Elphaba” in the musical Wicked, recently crossed over into mainstream success with her voicing of Queen Elsa in the Disney movie Frozen and her blockbuster hit “Let it Go.” Tonight’s concert was stop number 23 on her 54-city World Tour.
From the vocal pyrotechnics that Menzel used in her concert opener, that anthem from Wicked— “Defying Gravity,” the audience knew they were in for a rare treat. There are lots of singers who sing songs from Rent and Wicked, and lots who belt, but there are few who can belt with the skill and control of Menzel, and even fewer who can do so with the frankly stunning amount of power that Menzel seems to have almost effortlessly.
Her smooth, clear notes and vocal strength on the high notes and the riffs so critical to “Defying Gravity” indicated that without question this was a striking singer, at the height of her vocal power and control, which is why it was such a shock when she began to talk about how she wasn’t feeling very well—when she talked, it was clear that she had a cold, but when she began singing again (a delightfully funny and lighthearted version of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl) it seemed like her vocal problems disappeared.
Among the Broadway hits she sang were more from Wicked: “The Wizard and I”, and a beautiful a cappella version of “For Good” in a kind of sweet, low-key, love letter to the audience. Yet she also sang a powerhouse version of “Always Starting Over” from her most recent Broadway show, If/Then and in one of the highlights of the night, some songs from Rent. While singing “Take Me or Leave Me” from Rent, she ventured out into the audience (while wearing some delightful green fuzzy slippers, having ditched her high heels earlier in the evening) and recruited various people to duet with her. She certainly made the night of some very lucky audience members (who also sounded great up there with her)!
Yet it was not just her beautiful voice that made the night so much fun—Menzel’s authentic, earthy personality shone through every time she talked to the audience, and just really made her so personable and charismatic. Between anecdotes about how to take selfies and about growing up in Long Island and some fun times spent checking out herself in the jumbotrons, she made each audience member feel like a friend. It was exactly that authenticity and reality that made her cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” another one of the highlights of the night—her raw honesty about sometimes just being down or depressed seemed to resonate with much of the crowd, and as she underlined the message of the song with her actions (singing while kneeling, even lying down on the stage at one point), the slight rawness of her voice only complemented the message all the better. At the end, many in the audience jumped to their feet in a standing ovation.
Similarly, near the end of the show, as she was thanking the audience for coming out to the Jiffy Lube Live arena, her earthy sense-of-humor took over—she and the band made up an impromptu “Jiffy Lube” song that had the audience practically in tears from laughter. Menzel was frolicking and dancing around the stage, making-up lyrics about coming out to the “Lube” as they came to here. he spontaneity and humor—as well as a bit of pride in having a song made especially for us here in the DC-area—made this another one of the night’s highlights. How often do you see a famous singer jumping and dancing around like an excited child, singing about the arena that you are sitting in? Not often, I’ll wager.
And of course, Menzel could hardly neglect to sing her world-famous hit “Let It Go” from Frozen. Indeed, there were many little Elsas in the audience, and in another “audience-participation” bit, she brought many of the children up to sing the chorus with her. It was a fitting end to a spectacular evening, with Menzel’s voice powerfully belting out the familiar anthem as the audience jumped to their feet in a well-deserved standing ovation.
After tonight, many of Menzel’s fans who perhaps only knew her from Frozen will have discovered just what an engaging personality she is, and what her remarkable, powerful voice can do. They may have come as fans of Frozen, but they will have left as fans of Menzel—fans she most certainly deserves!
Set List (provided by the venue):
“Defying Gravity” (from Wicked)
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” (from Funny Girl)
“The Wizard and I” (from Wicked)
“Love for Sale”/”Roxanne”
“Ethel Merman Medley”
“Still I Can’t Be Still”
“Take Me or Leave Me” (from Rent)
“No Day But Today” (from Rent)
“Always Starting Over” (from If/Then)
“For Good” (from Wicked)
“Let it Go” (from Frozen)
“Tomorrow” (from Annie)
Running Time: 2 hours, with no intermission.
Idina Menzel played one night only on July 18, 2015 at the Jiffy Lube Live – 7800 Cellar Door Drive, in Bristow, VA. For future performances, check their calendar of events.
Idina Menzel’s website.