Idina Menzel on the Altria Theater stage. (photo by Peter Barkey-Bircann)
“It has been a dream of mine to be able to go out and play music all over the world and have people want to come and see ... it's a beautiful thing,” Tony-award winning performer Idina Menzel said when I spoke with her by phone in May, shortly before embarking on her first global tour as a solo artist.
And it certainly was a beautiful thing when the “Let It Go” singer took the stage Tuesday at Richmond's Altria Theater to kick off the North American leg of her tour. Menzel opened the show with a powerful rendition of “Defying Gravity” from her role as Elphaba in the blockbuster Wicked, for which she won a Tony award in 2004. After catching her breath, Menzel pleased the crowd with a little love for the River City.
“I've been [to places] all around the world, but none are as great as Richmond,” she said with a smile. Menzel played 14 shows across Asia and Europe before her July 7 performance in Richmond. At the show, Menzel performed “No Day But Today” from her breakout role in Rent, poignantly paying tribute to creator and friend Jonathan Larson, who passed away the day before opening night in 1996. A more lighthearted homage to her time with Rent was when the star chose a few willing members of the audience to join her in singing the duet “Take Me Or Leave Me,” on stage.
“I love what I do. It’s hard, hard work but when I’m on stage, I’m the most comfortable in my body,” she said in the May interview, adding, “I work hard off the stage, and I prepare, and I vocalize and I take care of myself and I do all these things so on the days when I’m not feeling 100 percent, I can still do a great show.”
It's hard to believe that even a vocal perfectionist like Menzel has off-days, but she assured the crowd that are times when even she “just doesn't feel like singing ‘Let It Go.’ ” She followed with an emotional (and barefoot) interpretation of Radiohead's “Creep.”
Lucky for us, July 7 was definitely an “on” day for Billboard's Women in Music Breakthrough Artist of the Year. Before closing the show with the Oscar-winning Frozen hit, Menzel's a cappella performance of “For Good” from Wicked — the show made its third Richmond stop in the same theater last year — was met with a reverberating standing ovation.
An encore performance included a touching original song dedicated to her 5 1/2-year-old son and her own version of “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.
“As my profile is getting larger and the venues are getting bigger, it is important to me that I still maintain an intimacy with the audience, that they still feel like when they leave the theater that they get to know who I am,” Menzel said in our interview.
Next, she makes stops in roughly 40 U.S. and Canadian cities before her final tour performance in Los Angeles on Oct. 3.