Reviewer: Lucy Thackray
The Public Reviews Rating:
Getting through the guest list queue might have felt akin to vacating the Titanic, but the general consensus was that nobody minded waiting for Idina Menzel. Very few musical theatre stars achieve that sparkle that put Barbra, Judy and Liza on first-name terms with the world, but the West End had been buzzing all week about the prospect of spending an evening with ‘Idina.’
Classic Broadway, big ballads and fabulous anecdotes were the order of the day, but Menzel managed to avoid extreme campness with the help of innate poise, fresh vocal interpretations and her witty banter between numbers.
The honey-smooth voice that made the world warm to the Wicked Witch of the West didn’t disappoint; from her jaunty opening rendition of The Life of the Party to her thrilling finale of Defying Gravity, Idina was on stunning form.
Each number began with her trademark frank and funny patter, and while she knew her audience (three numbers from West End titan Wicked, including a goosebumpy acapella version of For Good) she also threw in the odd curveball, treating us to the quirky songs she and husband Taye Diggs sing to their baby and an inventive ‘hooker mash-up’ of Love for Sale and Roxanne. Tears surely came to even the stoniest of faces as she recounted the tragic loss of Rent composer Jonathan Larson and sang a vulnerable, stripped-down version of No Day But Today.
Seemingly undaunted by the 8,000-capacity venue (and proclaiming it to be the most beautiful she’d sung in), Idina looked out to each angle of the crowd, addressed every row and made the concert feel surprisingly intimate. Her love for London and her fans seemed genuine, and the programme lovingly conceived.
Star conductor Marvin Hamlisch had great chemistry with Menzel and chatted with the audience in a similar cheeky, self-deprecating way. The Royal Philharmonic sounded glorious, soaring through a My Fair Lady medley in tribute to its home city and enhancing both lower-key tracks like Heaven Help My Heart and upbeat numbers such as Idina’s Glee favourite, Poker Face.
The set list struck a perfect balance between giving Menzel’s fans the priceless experience of hearing her sing her most famous numbers and introducing them to material that clearly meant a lot to the actress herself. Funny Girl and Don’t Rain on My Parade gave a nod to the influence of Barbra Streisand (though her tale of meeting her idol sounded equal parts hilarious and mortifying) and a delicious encore of The Way We Were was a real highlight, accompanied on the piano by its composer, Hamlisch. Idina waved goodbye to London with a song chosen for her mother Helene, who was in the audience, an uplifting orchestral version of Tomorrow.
This concert felt akin to an audience with a Sinatra or a Streisand; Idina Menzel is a natural entertainer and managed to eclipse the sizeable venue and orchestra with her charm and that unique voice. Hopefully the success of this show will encourage more Broadway stars to come to London, but I seriously doubt anyone could top Ms Menzel for sheer style and glamour.REVIEW: Idina Menzel at the Royal Albert Hall,