Well, I’ll say this about Idina Menzel: Girl can sing.
She can sing even when she has a cold and spent most of the day in bed.
I was fortunate enough to see her earlier this week at the Birchmere, and she did not disappoint.
The Birchmere itself is not my favorite venue. I’ve been there twice now, in both rooms, and I’m not impressed. The actual space is fine, and the acoustics are satisfactory. But they do this whole dinner theater thing that doesn’t really work. First off, their food is terrible, and second, their waitstaff is barely capable.
Two examples: When we arrived, my dad ordered a scotch, and wanted a particular brand. The waitress came back, and told him they didn’t have that brand. My dad said whatever they had in house would be fine. She said, “Whatever we have in terms of…what?”
Now, I’m not sure what kind he wanted either, but I’m not a waitress. We ended up switching tables to get a better view, and our new waiter knew his scotch, but not how to serve. It took about twenty minutes (no exaggeration) for my dad to get his drink. Later in the evening, two other people joined our table. (Another thing I dislike about the place – you have to eat with strangers. Luckily, our concert companions turned out to be normal, nice people. But what are the odds?) They got in well before last call, but it took about a half hour (again, no exaggeration) for our waiter to come back to the table and take their order.
But that’s not what you want to hear about.
As I said before, Idina was great. She really has a set of lungs. She sauntered on stage after her band started playing the first few bars of the opening song, took command immediately and didn’t give it back for the rest of the night.
The set started with a few songs from her latest album. While I enjoy her singing voice greatly, I don’t think I’ll be buying the CD. It’s fine; just not really my style of music. Luckily, she did other stuff. Some of the highlights of the night included a powerhouse version of “The Man that Got Away”, a lovely solo from the musical Chess (sorry, I only know it exists; I’m not familiar with the music), and a beautiful, stripped down version of “One” (very exciting for this U2 fan).
Fans of Rent and Wicked got what they wanted, too. Before starting the Rent show stopper, “No Day But Today” she told us, “You all know this, sing along”, and then proceeded to go through the audience, heading over to those on the side and way in the back, who might not have the best view. (She was very concerned about those people sitting on the sides, referring to them as “her people.” “How are my people over there doing?” she asked throughout the night. “Is my ass singing well?”)
One of my favorites was when she did a short a capella version of “For Good.” She took off her earpiece, laid her mic down, and just belted it out. I’m not ashamed to say the room got a little dusty during that song.
One other highlight for me was a Jewish prayer she sang. I have no idea what it was, and couldn’t recall it for you. But it was very pretty. She translated the lyrics for us first, sang a verse, and then told us a lovely story about her younger sister before finishing the song. She said that over the years, the prayer (about an ancient female warrior) has become less about herself, and more about her sister. This totally gave me flashbacks to Sunshine Cleaning and made me miss my sister.
They did one encore, which was, of course Defying Gravity. I have to admit, this was somewhat of a let down for me. I mean, that’s what everyone in the audience wanted to hear right? We were all waiting for it. And then, she started, and it was great, but right at the climax, she threw it to the audience. I know she was sick, so that might have been the reason but…I was waiting all night for those notes.
Despite the somewhat lackluster ending, overall, it was a great night. I haven’t even mentioned that she’s hilarious. She has a great stage presence, and was cracking us up with her quips, whether it was updating us the status of her snot, or reliving her wedding singer days. (Can you imagine having Idina Menzel as a wedding singer, before she was Tony Winner Idina Menzel?)
I’d definitely see her again. She’s currently touring, so if you’re a fan, I recommend trying to catch her. Though, our show was sold out, so I’m not sure if tickets are still available.
Video of the Day: A little taste. Here’s our girl belting out “For Good” in North Carolina. Tell me that doesn’t bring tears to your eyes.