The first time I heard of Idina Menzel was last week, when our company's receptionist sent out an e-mail saying employees could get 30 percent off tickets to Menzel's upcoming show with the Boston Pops.
Fast foward one week. Eight o'clock tonight found me and my co-worker Rowan in the first row of the first balcony, stage left, practically close enough to smell Keith Lockhart's hair product. But we weren't watching him. How could we? Right next to him was the busty, in-your-face Menzel, rocking the house in a clingy, mermaid-style gown.
Menzel, as I know now, is a star of the Broadway stage. Not a "star" like some of the middling ones that occasionally sing with the Pops, but a real star. I say that not because of her resume ("Rent," "Wicked") but because of her exuberant, warm presence, and because of her powerhouse voice, whose reverbations must have been felt in the fillings of patrons in the nosebleed seats and beyond.
Menzel opened with a fun number ("The Life of the Party"), and then moved to an inspired arrangement of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale" with the Police classic "Roxanne."
Of course, she included hits from "Wicked" ("Defying Gravity"), plus "Rent" ("No Day But Today," and an a capella version of "For Good"). She also threw in a song she and her husband wrote for their 8-month-old son. With its charming lyrics ("Did you go somewhere special in your dream? Did you go sailing across a silver stream?"), the swingy tune was a huge crowd-pleaser.
Menzel was good at chit-chat too, telling entertaining stories, including a serious one (about the premature death of "Rent" composer Jonathan Larsen) and a funny one (about her days as a wedding singer, pumping out "Conga" and "Hot Hot Hot"). The latter anecdote led to a gorgeous rendition of "Embraceable You." Menzel's encore was an exquisite "Tomorrow."
Prior to the show, I'd watched one or two YouTubes of Menzel and, to be honest, hadn't been bowled over. Either I'd picked bad ones or just wasn't connecting with the songs. But this evening's show was a major "Wow." Thanks, Idina!