A flirtatious lesbian performance artist, a misunderstood green witch, a cocaine-addicted prostitute and two Disney princesses. These are just a few of the roles that actress and singer Idina Menzel has embodied over the past two decades.
Some will know her from her theater roles in shows like “Rent,” “Wicked” and “If/Then,” all of which earned her Tony nominations. Many may know her from her recurring role on “Glee.” But most people know her as Elsa from “Frozen,” a character she voiced six years after becoming a princess at the end of Disney’s “Enchanted.”
Through it all, she’s maintained a consistent vigor as a live performer. With her big voice and bold stage presence, Menzel knows how to captivate an audience. And that is just what she did when she took the stage at Mizner Park’s Count de Hoernle Amphitheater on Sunday night.
The concert opened with a video introduction where Menzel remarked how she always knew her voice was different. Several of the great musical moments from her career played on the giant screen before she emerged in the flesh, singing “Defying Gravity” from “Wicked.” A 15-piece orchestra backed Menzel, led by pianist Cliff Carter. From the first song, you could tell that the beautiful orchestrations would easily enhance her voice.
Playing to the audience, Menzel was thrilled to be among fans; she quipped with spectators in the front couple of rows and shared stories from her career. When she looked at the audience for a first time, she noticed a man with his wife and joked that he was the only straight guy in the audience.
“He doesn’t know who the f*** I am,” Menzel said. “He was dragged here.”
She then went on to sing the Barbra Streisand classic “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” In her introduction to the song, Menzel spoke of how she sang the song for Streisand at the Kennedy Center Honors, and that afterward, Babs just told her she was good and walked away. Menzel laughed and said that she would never know how Streisand truly felt.
Her antics continued throughout the show. After an audience member remarked that she was in “The Wiz,” she responded that she was not because she was Jewish, not black—but added that her son, on the other hand, is both Jewish and black.
While enjoying the breeze that gave her a “Beyoncé look,” Menzel was not enjoying the South Florida weather. “Holding those long notes in 100 percent humidity is interesting to me,” she said.
Menzel performed several cover songs throughout her set. From theater classics like Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale” and a medley of Ethel Merman songs to Radiohead’s “Creep,” Joni Mitchell’s “River” and The Police’s “Roxanne,” nothing was off limits.
Before “Creep,” Menzel took off her shoes to become more intimate with the crowd. She acknowledged how lucky she was to perform beautiful songs for people who are ostracized from society, but that there are days when she wakes up and does not want to get out of bed. “Creep” let her express how she feels on those days, and she even performed part of it lying flat on the stage. Upon finishing the song, Menzel received a standing ovation.
When it came to “Take Me or Leave Me,” Maureen and Joanne’s power duet from “Rent,” Menzel brought three young adults onstage who belted their hearts out. Similarly, when it came to her Grammy- and Oscar-winning song “Let it Go,” Menzel invited all of the children in the audience to run to the front of the stage to sing along.
Menzel was grateful to everyone around her. She took time to pay tribute to Jonathan Larson, the creator of “Rent,” who tragically died the night before his show opened, before singing “No Day But Today.” Toward the end of the show, she praised all of her orchestra members and thanked the audience for its love and support.
Of course there were moments when Menzel missed high notes, but it is to be expected considering her vocally challenging repertoire of songs. For every note that cracked, you could feel her passion for the music.
While Menzel has already played an array of characters, I have no doubt she will continue to impress audiences with a multitude of roles. It was announced in January that Menzel will play the lead in “Happy Time,” a television comedy produced by Ellen DeGeneres, and she has announced that she has a new album in the works.
Menzel is defying gravity, and one should not expect her to come down anytime soon.
Defying Gravity (from “Wicked”)
Don’t Rain on My Parade (from “Funny Girl”)
The Wizard and I (from “Wicked”)
River (Joni Mitchell Cover)
Love For Sale/Roxanne (Cole Porter Cover from “The New Yorkers”/The Police Cover)
There’s No Business Like Show Business/Anything Goes/Everything’s Coming Up Roses (Ethel Merman Covers from “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Anything Goes” and “Gypsy”)
Still I Can’t Be Still
Creep (Radiohead Cover)
Take Me or Leave Me (from “Rent”)
No Day But Today (from “Rent”)
Always Starting Over (from “If/Then”)
For Good (from “Wicked”)
Let It Go (from “Frozen”)
A Currently Untitled Song for Her Son, Walker
Tomorrow (from “Annie”)
This article first appeared on Boca Magazine on July 27, 2015 and can be found here.