“At Jewish weddings, the band and singer have to eat in the kitchen” this kooky former wedding singer from Long Island proclaims, chewing casually on a throat sweet as she smoothes out her full-length evening gown.
Intertwining money notes, beautiful ballads, new material and classic standards with authenticity and a true natural talent as a comic raconteur - this is an entertainer at the top of her game. Performing barefoot, she admits to ditching the heels following motherhood and proceeds to give the Apollo a rare musical treat backed by a faultless 25-piece orchestra at the helm of musical director Rob Mounsey.
The Streisand of her generation (according to the Denver Post) takes us back to her roots belting out bits and pieces of wedding favourites while tugging at our heartstrings with Joni Mitchell, Over The Rainbow and a clever Cole Porter/Moulin Rouge medley. Without focusing too strongly on her past, Menzel pays tribute to her global successes of Rent and Wicked with songs that have defined musical theatre for many younger enthusiasts. An intimate tribute from A Chorus Line dedicated to the legendary Marvin Hamlish is beautifully presented with Menzel pouring out raw vulnerability, kneeling centre stage on a piano bench. A particular highlight is her audience duet moment of Take Me or Leave Me. While in less experienced hands, this could have easily dampened the quality of an otherwise top calibre show, Menzel wisely uses the opportunity to (literally) step down from any proverbial pedestals, and become further accessible.
Closing with a punchy Defying Gravity, her encores seem almost an anti-climax as this New York native nails more than just non-stop top notes. Comfortable, confident and relaxed, Menzel most of all radiates contentment, hence freeing herself from any impending limits. Bravo.