WORTH A LOOK?: ***
WHERE: Royal Albert Hall
SETLIST: Queen Of Swords; Seasons Of Love; Don’t Rain On My Parade; Everybody Knows; Cake/Black Dog; I’m Not That Girl; Wind Beneath My Wings; Defying Gravity; I Do; Bridge Over Troubled Water; Rock Steady; No Day But Today; Dear Prudence/Do You Want To Build A Snowman?; For Good; Let It Go; I See You; Ev’ry Time I Say Goodbye
We’ve been working away in Liverpool and it’s taken us four hours to travel several hundred miles to make it here with a rucksack shortly after curtain up.
- Read on for reasons including how Idina Menzel charms after an awkward start
Turning up to a gig with a rucksack is never advisable and, given recent events, we can understand absolutely the bemusement of security guards as they rummage through our assortment of dirty clothes and toiletries. Why on earth would anyone bring these to a gig?
Less forgivable is the refusal to allow entry to the hall without first putting the rucksack in a cloakroom, all of which are locked because the staff are on a break. Eventually a staff member takes pity on us, a cloakroom is opened, we are given a ticket and told: ‘Hopefully you’ll be able to pick this up at the end’. Indeed!
Inside the hall and it’s clear this is a show with Vegas aspirations but on a fraction of the budget. Odd because we’re paying arena-sized ticket prices – and some.
Gosh, there’s a lot of chat. A ripple of applause for Menzel’s acknowledgement of recent tragedies in London and Manchester; we learn our hostess is 46, divorced, a mother and recently engaged.
She spies an empty front row seat, asks whether anyone is on their own, finds someone and invites him to the empty spot. It’s a nice moment, far less awkward than when she ridicules a mother for stifling her grown-up daughter’s independence by asking on her daughter’s behalf whether the daughter can have her picture taken with the star.
The setlist is a curious mix of show tunes, unmemorable self-penned songs and covers appearing to have little to connect them other than Menzel’s own enthusiasm for them.
As we’re starting to despair, we’re presented with a very literal take on Wind Beneath My Wings (think multiple wind machines and Menzel clutching giant tea towels to accentuate the billowing) segueing into big hit Defying Gravity which has the previously comatose audience leaping to its feet.
The patter improves: there’s a genuinely moving anecdote about her big break in musical Rent and by the time we get to Let It Go from Disney movie Frozen she’s established such a rapport with the crowd that what happens next is far more entertaining than it might sound.
‘Are there any children in the audience?’ she asks. And, suddenly, a dozen or so of them are lifted on to the stage by parents or dropped from barriers to get there. We expect the staff who’ve made our presence in the hall such a trial to appear shrieking about ‘health and safety’ but instead Menzel sits with the kids offering them the microphone to sing several lines each of the classic.
One girl is even dressed as the ice princess from the movie and replies: ‘A box’ hilariously when asked where she has come from.
Menzel explains she’s recently had laryngitis and there’s clearly still something not quite right with her voice. It’s only on the final encore, a brilliant take on Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye delivered sprawling on a piano, that it becomes clear both what an entertainer she can be – and also, perhaps, that this is exactly the sort of jazzy and grown-up material that best suits her impressive voice.
- Picture via Facebook courtesy Idina Menzel. Tickets
- Enjoyed this review? Follow its author on Twitter @NeilDurham, email firstname.lastname@example.org and check us out on Facebook