Idina Menzel kicked off the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's new season last Saturday in a way only a true diva could. Backed by the precision of the BPO under the baton of Matthew Kraemer, Menzel soared.
Menzel entered the stage barefoot in a flowing, canary yellow gown during the opening riffs of "The Life of the Party." She was greeted by thunderous applause and a standing ovation from a group of diehard fans. This song really showed off her incredible range and power; everybody knew they were in for an amazing night.
"Are you the life of your party?" Menzel asked in one of her many personal chats with the audience. "I really don't like parties," she quipped.
Menzel is one of Broadway's most bankable stars and was at one time the highest paid actress in London's West End. She has been nominated for many awards and won a Tony and Drama Desk Award for her role in the Broadway smash, "Wicked." She currently appeals to a new generation of fans with a recurring guest star role in the Fox hit "Glee."
Menzel introduced many of her songs by sharing a personal, and sometimes inappropriate, anecdote. The first introduced a mash-up of Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" with the Police's "Roxanne," which was very surprising. She was able to convey the emotions of Porter's song, and switch to the rock-styled "Roxanne." This also showed the versatility of the BPO.
In one of the night's many "Wicked" moments, Menzel changed the mood yet again with, "I'm Not the Girl," a poignant love song. Without having to use a powerful belt, the gentle song filled the hall.
Menzel then recalled her start in show business in the off-Broadway cast of "Rent." She recalled meeting her husband, Taye Diggs, another cast member. She also spoke fondly of the show's creator, Jonathon Larson, who died while the show was in previews. She sang "No Day But Today," as a sort of tribute to him. She had fun with the audience by singing a line and then having them repeat it while trying to match her melodic ad-libbing.
She shared stories about Barbra Streisand and joked about having to sing "Don't Rain on My Parade" at the Kennedy Center Honors in front of Streisand. She sang "Funny Girl" and "Don't Rain on My Parade," which stopped the show and dethroned Streisand as the song's quintessential singer.
Another highlight was a song that reached her "Glee" fans -- Lady Gaga's "Poker Face."
I could've gone without the songs that she wrote herself, including a mix of lullabies that she wrote with her husband to her son. They especially seemed lacking when they were sung in a set list that included some of the most well-written Broadway songs.
She then did something interesting with the "Wicked" song, "For Good." She sang it a capella, without a microphone. Her lush voice was able to reach the back row of the balcony. It showed her true talent.
After a standing ovation, the orchestra played the heavy chords to her well-known song, "Defying Gravity."
An encore brought "Tomorrow," which she dedicated to her mom. She added her own riffs to the well-known melody.
Kleinhans Music Hall has had the most famous musicians in the world on its stage, and I think that each performer leaves a bit of their stage presence there; last Saturday, Menzel added her soaring soprano somewhere in the rafters.
Ian Scaduto is a senior at Clarence High School.