Idina Menzel | 08.01.08

menzel.jpg Despite the big shows she is used to performing, she was more than comfortable in an intimate setting like The Pageant.

 

 

The Pageant, St. Louis

Taking the stage, Idina Menzel jumped right into the title track from her latest solo album, I Stand. It was noticeable from right out of the gate how strong her voice was. Immediately one realized they were not at just another pop singer’s concert. This was Idina Menzel, aka Maureen Johnson in the Broadway phenomena Rent, aka Elphaba from Wicked. It was in Wicked that Menzel won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. While the typical pop singer needs at least a few songs to warm up and get going, Menzel came out in full form.

Throughout the whole night, Menzel’s charisma and beauty were stunning. She drew in focus so easily that I didn’t even realize she was with a full band until three songs into the set. It also seemed that, despite the big shows she is used to performing, she was more than comfortable in an intimate setting like The Pageant. In fact, she spent much of her time having casual conversations with the audience. Menzel joked and told little insights into her life that everyone gobbled up. At one point, she even lay flat on her back on the stage, trying to remove some painful-looking heels. At moments like this, she acted as if she were hanging out with friends in her living room rather than onstage at a concert.

One of the highlights of the night was when Menzel took the audience down a comical memory lane, telling stories about her teenage years as a bar mitzvah/wedding singer in Long Island during the late 1980s; this allowed her to segue into a whole medley of pop hits from that era. More importantly, it again let the fans in the audience get more in touch with her endearing qualities. The show mostly consisted of songs from I Stand, which she performed beautifully and with conviction. However, she did do “Without You” from Rent and a rousing cover of the Police classic, “Roxanne.” In all of her songs, she expressed a sensuality very reminiscent of her Rent character, Maureen Johnson. In fact, as the show went on, it became apparent that the character I saw in the movie was more a reflection of Idina Menzel than vice versa.

For the encore, Menzel performed “No Trace of Us” and probably her best-known hit, “Defying Gravity.” The latter is the big showpiece song from the musical Wicked during which Elphaba rises into the sky on her broom for the first time. It’s a big, over-the-top scene, filled with special effects and Broadway-styled pageantry. However, Menzel wasn’t lifted into the air at The Pageant. In fact, she sat down on the edge of the stage and sang with a laid-back attitude, often holding the microphone out to pick up the audience singing along with her — just Idina and a few hundred of her closest friends. | Ryan Parker

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