Concert recap: Idina Menzel with Marvin Hamlish and New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall
It was an evening that would make any performer green. Tony winner Idina Menzel, famed for her emerald-skinned turn as Elphaba in Wicked, made her New York Philharmonic debut Saturday night at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Yet in an environment of elegance and sophistication, Menzel was geeking out over her conductor. Well, in her defense, the conductor was Marvin Hamlisch.
The EGOT winner (30 Rock-speak for someone who has won all four Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards) and composer of A Chorus Line and many Barbra Streisand standards was on the receiving end of many gushings from Menzel throughout the concert. At one point, she asked for permission to climb up onto his conductor’s podium so that she may kiss him. Hamlisch obliged, and the embrace evoked a collective “Aww” from the sold-out house.
In addition to her songs, which included musical theater classics and selections from Rent and Wicked, Menzel was in great comedic spirit. Taking long breaks between songs, she told stories of her youth (her family’s most requested song of hers was “The Way We Were”), her life with husband Taye Diggs and 17-month-old son Walker (she and Diggs compose original lullabies and argue over who gets to vocally shine), and of her career (singing for Streisand at the Kennedy Center and being upstaged by Beyonce).
Menzel’s comedy was well received by the Lincoln Center audience, which can typically be an upturned-nose crowd. She embodied a jovial attitude that mixed well with her elegance. Menzel took the stage (barefoot) in an elegant and simple white dress with a thin black belt. Her radiance was a reflection of the night—a special achievement in her career.
She began with “I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked and quickly moved onto Cole Porter’s “Love For Sale,” which she performed in a mash up with Sting’s “Roxanne.” One of her few breaks from comedic anecdotes preceded “No Day But Today” from Rent. Noting the weight of this Lincoln Center performance for her, she referenced Rent composer Jonathan Larson’s sudden death of an aortic aneurysm when Rent was in previews. She explained how that ordeal, for her and the rest of the original cast, taught them to live in the moment, and that she was utilizing that philosophy for this performance.
Menzel continued with the arrangement of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” that she and Lea Michele sang together when she guest starred on Glee. She interlaced the song with narrative about her experience on the show, noting how inappropriate she thought the song choice was for what was a mother-daughter reunion scene. Menzel echoed what undoubtedly every person in the audience was thinking—that she got the esteemed New York Philharmonic to play Lady Gaga.
Wrapping up her set, the stage lights dimmed and Menzel turned off her microphone. Using only the expertly crafted acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall, Menzel sang an a cappella version of Wicked’s “For Good.” With her voice effectively reaching every corner of the venue, it made for a powerful moment. After surprising the crowd with this bold, graceful move, Menzel then amped up the volume with her signature number, “Defying Gravity.” For her encore, Hamlisch, the piano impresario himself, took to the 88s while Menzel sang his “What I Did For Love,” from A Chorus Line. To close the show, Menzel sang Annie’s “Tomorrow,” which she dedicated to her mother.
“The Life of the Party” from The Wild Party
“I’m Not That Girl” from Wicked
“Love For Sale” from The New Yorkers / “Roxanne” by Sting
“No Day But Today” from Rent
“Look To The Rainbow” from Finian’s Rainbow
“Poker Face” as performed on Glee
“Funny Girl” from Funny Girl
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” from Funny Girl
“For Good” from Wicked
“Defying Gravity” from Wicked
“What I Did For Love” from A Chorus Line
“Tomorrow” from Annie
Were you at Idina Menzel’s Lincoln Center concert, Rushers? What was you favorite song she performed? Did you think her stories were funny? Was it a thrill to see Marvin Hamlisch live? Leave your wicked love for Idina in the comments below!