I was expecting to be blown away. After all, this is Idina Menzel! The singer from Rent, Wicked, and Glee. I did see her PBS special, got her concert DVD and was mesmerized. The 25-piece orchestra was spot-on, last night. Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center was breathtaking.
The show began with her singing off-stage with Over the Rainbow, then she entered in a long white one shoulder flowing gown, barefoot, as advertised, Barefoot at the Symphony. The 2200-seat theater was filled to near capacity, 2100 we were told, and it looked exactly like that was the case. We had a box seat on the second mezzanine, first two sights at the front. It seemed like Idina was within arm’s reach. Close enough to see every expression and experience every nuance.
Her opening number after Rainbow, was the theme song from Wicked. At that moment, it was clear the attendees were pure Idina fans. They knew every song, sang along, and it was a party.
She followed by covering Love For Sale mixed with Sting‘s, Roxanne Brilliant medley.
Then, she sat on a stool and spoke of being the mom of a 2-year old, how fleeting life is, and how the next song had a new meaning for her. That song was Joni Mitchell’s Clouds. It was beautiful. She ended this song with a very low note, proving, that less is more, you don”t always give it all away in every song. It was a hauntingly beautiful rendition.
The follow song was an original. She forgot the second verse of and elected to start over. Again, she was funny, but I could tell she was upset.
She told a story working with inner city kids over the summer and one girl in particular had horrific stage fright on the night of the performance. She sat with the girl, and said, “Look, you don’t have to do the play, the process of the preparation was enough.” She said the girl wanted to do it.
Idina said “Something that stuck with me. When you are on stage, you not alone, think of the audience as part of your show, they are with you, the band is with you, it is a party, a collaboration, it should never feel lonely, so you needn’t be afraid!”
I love that and will use it to tell my students.
When the music started for Take me for what I am, from Rent the crowd wet nuts! Everyone sang along, and so, she went down the stairs and started letting people sing with her, she wound up seeing the very few empty seats and said “Did these people leave? Where are they?” She asked about 18 people from the upper reaches of Reynolds Hall to come down and fill those seats! Then she brought about 25 kids on stage to sing the Rent song with her. It was magical, and a moment these kids will never forget. They were between 13 and 17 years old.
She told the backstory of Rent, How the night before the premiere, the writer, composer suddenly died, Jonathon Larson, 1960-1996. It was all the more reason to get up there every night and convey his script and songs to do it for him. She still feels a need to do it every time she performs.
She put the mic down, and just sang For Good, from Wicked. This song, breaks me up everytime, because I sang it acapella at my girlfriends memorial. The lyric says,
“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”
I cried and cried and was glad I wore that waterproof Mascara.
She received a long standing ovation, introduced everyone, and then came back out and did two encores, one Defying Gravity, the other, a beautiful original written with the gentleman who wrote Mariah Carey’s, Hero.
The core of her band was 6-piece rhythm section for New York City. She introduced all the local Las Vegas musicians, strings, Harp, Horns, and percussion.
She was gracious, and humble, and so sincerely amazed that she, a former wedding singer from Long Island, would fill this huge theater.
I urge you, if you ever get the chance, to see Idina Menzel, She is the real deal, and you get more than you bargained for.
Las Vegas Vocal Training