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Idina Menzel – Symphony Hall, Birmingham

Reviewer: James Garrington

Idina Menzel. Fans of musical theatre will remember her as the first Elphaba in Wicked, both on Broadway, and later in the West End. You may remember her for her rôle in the hit TV show Glee, or in the Disney movie Enchanted, before she was rediscovered by a whole new generation as the voice of Elsa in the smash Disney movie Frozen singing Let it Go, her recording of which made her the first person with both a Billboard Top Ten hit and a Tony award for acting.

Walking in, the audience are greeted by a stage lit with a subdued lilac and blue, which somehow gives the place a very intimate feel, rather like a classy cabaret club – no mean feat for a venue the size of Symphony Hall. In fact, lighting is a feature throughout the evening, embellishing each number with a variety of always appropriate colours.

Menzel is known for her huge voice, and she demonstrates it to the full, accompanied by a 15-piece band on stage. Her audience expects to hear the big belted numbers and she doesn’t disappoint them, opening with her trademark Defying Gravity and closing with, of course, Let it Go. In between she presents a nice variety of material, old and new, from the world of pop and musical theatre, including a tribute to Ethel Merman, covering three of Merman’s classic songs: There’s No Business Like Show Business, Anything Goes, and Everything’s Coming Up Roses. With these big numbers though, Menzel’s diction and vocal accuracy sometimes fail and the words get lost among the powerful delivery. There is plenty of panache to make up for it, but lyrics can be important, and Menzel often comes across better in her more reflective moments. There are several of them in this concert, reminding us what a great interpreter of songs Menzel can be, including a wonderful version of the Cole Porter classic Love For Sale and Joni Mitchell’s River.

Alongside her performing, Menzel is also a talented songwriter, and we get to hear songs she has co-written for her albums, too. She seems entirely at home and relaxed on the stage, and talking with the audience – even getting someone to lift her down from the stage so she can walk among them. Many of them get picked out for conversation or to join her in a version of Take Me or Leave Me, as she tells us about her time as part of the original cast of Rent, before an emotional performance of No Day but Today. She shows great appreciation of her audience throughout, giving us Always Starting Over from her current Broadway show, If/Then before an unaccompanied and unmiked For Good, the wonderful acoustics in Symphony Hall carrying her voice clearly to the back. By the time she launches into Let it Go, she has the audience all happily singing along.

Coming back on stage for the inevitable encore, Menzel leaves the audience with a bit of a surprise – no big closing sequence, but a very gentle song she has written for her forthcoming album, written for her son; followed by Tomorrow from Annie. There is no doubt that Menzel works hard on stage – nearly two hours without a break – and her fans love her, and what she does. Overall, an accomplished performance and varied evening.

Reviewed on 22nd June 2015 and on tour

Reviewer: James Garrington Idina Menzel. Fans of musical theatre will remember her as the first Elphaba in Wicked, both on Broadway, and later in the West End. You may remember her for her rôle in the hit TV show Glee, or in the Disney movie Enchanted, before she was rediscovered by a whole new generation as the voice of Elsa in the smash Disney movie Frozen singing Let it Go, her recording of which made her the first person with both a Billboard Top Ten hit and a Tony award for acting. Walking in, the audience are greeted by a…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.