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Idina Menzel in Concert

July 19, 2010

This Saturday, I lucked out and got the chance to see Idina Menzel, the Tony Award-winning Broadway singer who gave life to the role of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the musical Wicked, perform live at Wolf Trap.  She performed hit Broadway songs, including three songs from Rent and Wicked, and some of her own songs from her new album “I Stand.”  She is just beginning her big tour, so don’t despair if you missed out—depending on where you live, you may still get to see her!  (See below for list of tour stops.)

She is most famous for starring as the first Elphaba of Broadway, but she also originated the role of Maureen in the rock musical Rent.  This was her Broadway debut and her first professional theater gig.  You may also know her as Shelby, the competition’s glee club director and the heroine Rachel’s mother, in the hit TV series, Glee.  And if you watch this show, you’ll be glad to know she sang Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” during the concert, even though it wasn’t on the set list (scroll down to “Fun Facts” for a Youtube link to her singing an amazing version of this song!)

Basically, I’m pretty sure she is charisma defined, and she is one hell of a performer.

Image courtesy of IdinaMenzel.com

Wolf Trap is one of my favorite venues, and while it was a hot night, there was a nice breeze and picnicking on the lawn ($20 seats!) was a ton of fun.  Everyone on the lawn sets up camp early with blankets and picnic goodies—beer, wine, cheese and crackers, fried chicken, cake, you name it!  Menzel herself said it was her biggest audience so far, and she gushed over how great the acoustics were for hearing the NSO on stage with her.  This is one of the many reasons to love Wolf Trap—not only is it outside and unlike your typical big concert venue (which is why it attracts the likes of Sheryl Crow), but the acoustics are PHENOMENAL.  Menzel tested it and even without a mike, we could hear her out on the lawn.

She also delighted the audience with her hilarious and quirky sense of humor (ex: “They told me I couldn’t say any four-letter words…but that doesn’t mean I can’t say ‘ass.’  ASSSSSS!”)

While her performance was the highlight for me, the composer Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony Orchestra performed for the first fourth of the show, playing beautiful songs from Evita and Annie Get Your Gun, among others.  For the rest of the show, Hamlisch and the NSO accompanied Menzel as she sang, and she also did some sets solo.

Take a listen to “Defying Gravity,” Menzel’s most famous song from the musical Wicked, and see why she is considered one of the best voices of Broadway.  If you can’t recognize who is singing which part, that’s Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda the Good Witch) singing 50 seconds in, and Idina Menzel picks up 1 min 3 seconds in and has a solid solo for about a minute.

If you wish you could have the chance to hear Idina Menzel sing, you may still be in luck!  She is only just beginning her tour, and she is making stops in many cities.  If you live in or near…

  • Bethel, NY
  • Hyannis, MA
  • Cincinnati, OH (she’ll be there for 3 nights)
  • Brookville, Long Island, NY
  • Red Bank, NJ
  • Denver, CO
  • Costa Mesa, CA
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • West Palm Beach, FL

…then you may be able to still score tickets.  She’s continuing her tour and performing in these cities from now until mid-December.  While ticket prices vary, with a little online searching you can probably find a decent ticket price.  And trust me, it’s worth it.  She herself is amazing, but hearing her live?  Man oh man.  So amazing.

Fun facts about Idina Menzel:

  • Menzel grew up in Queens, New York, and attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts
  • She won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Elphaba in Wicked in 2004.
  • She and the rest of the Rent cast shared a Tony Award for Best Musical in 1996.
  • She was also nominated for a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Maureen in Rent.
  • She reprised her role of Maureen in the original film adaptation of Rent, so if you are curious about this musical, check out the movie version!  It’s very, very different from the on-stage version (it’s considerably tamer and doesn’t include a lot of my favorite stage moments), but the majority of the original cast sings their hearts out in it, which makes it worth while.
  • She played Patrick Dempsey’s fiancée, Nancy, in the movie Enchanted.  I still have no idea why they never gave her a song to sing in this movie, though, especially because there was some singing in this Disney flick.  I sat through the whole thing waiting for her to show off her vocal chops, and nothing.  Nada.   In an interview she seemed to like that they gave her a role based solely on her acting chops, but I was super disappointed that she didn’t even sing a song in the credits.
  • The “Good Witch” from the original cast of Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth, also has a recurring role in Glee.  And I’m assuming that because they are both on the show, the writers have an amazing duet up their sleeve in the future!
  • On the show Glee, you can see Menzel singing Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” as well as “Funny Girl” from the musical Funny Girl, and “I Dreamed a Dream” from the musical Les Misérables (one of my all-time favorite musicals…even wrote one of my college essays on it!)—Click on the song titles for a Youtube listen.
  • She’s married to actor Taye Diggs,who costarred with her in the original Rent cast (that’s where they met).

Wicked is an AMAZING musical if you ever get to see it live.  If you love theater or Menzel, take a look at her website and see if you can see her live this summer!  It is not something to miss.  And if you’re not familiar with her but like the audio clip above, take a listen to the soundtracks from Rent or Wicked.  I knew the soundtracks from both of these years before I saw them on stage, and trust me, you can fall in love with a musical without ever having seen it.

Live in the DC area and love theater and concerts?  Want to see the Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, the Counting Crows, or Train?  Or want to sit out under the stars while you watch the film “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” and hear an orchestra perform the music live?  Maybe I’m the only one who’s dorky enough to think that last one sounds amazing…but if you do like the sound of any of these, check out Wolf Trap’s website and see why this is one of DC’s most special concert venues!  Lawn tickets are über cheap, so don’t miss out!

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