Tuesday, July 10, 2012

High Notes Make For an Enjoyable, If Imperfect, Evening with Idina Menzel at Ravinia -- Concert Review

Concert Review

Idina Menzel
accompanied by Marvin Hamlisch
and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
July 8, 2012
Ravinia Festival, Highland Park, IL

Following a week where 100 degree temperatures made being outdoors, day or night, rather uncomfortable, Sunday evening at Ravinia the weather was picture perfect.

Unfortunately the star attraction, Idina Menzel, was feeling a bit under it, as she conveyed early in her performance.

Menzel, most famous for starring in the original Broadway productions of Rent and Wicked, explained that she had been rather ill the night before in Minneapolis, but didn't want to cancel her Ravinia gig given her great regard for the storied venue at which she was making her first appearance.

Had she not provided that disclaimer, I doubt that I would've observed that she was sick--especially from my vantage point out on the lawn, though I did sneak some peeks from alongside the pavilion--as she was onstage for nearly two hours, accompanied by legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

However, given her soldiering on, as well as the quite reasonable $10 lawn ticket price, the beautiful weather, pleasant company and a 'loverly' opening set from Hamlisch and the CSO--including "One" and other snippets from his Chorus Line score, as well as a sizable chunk of My Fair Lady--I'll be a tad less critical than I might have otherwise been of Menzel's own performance.

Yes, her stage patter was a bit excessive, making for subpar pacing, her renditions of pop tunes such as Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" were less compelling than selections from her Broadway catalogue, and even the best of those--"Defying Gravity" from Wicked, "No Day But Today" from Rent--weren't quite as full-throated and spectacular as they might have been on another night. 

Had I paid $90 for a pavilion seat or endured a steamy 100 degree evening, it's likely I would've been a bit more disappointed. But Menzel, who I had the pleasure of seeing in Wicked on Broadway, showed why she was capable of drawing a large crowd to Ravinia without, conceivably, having that high a Q rating among the general public.

She did a nice enough job with "The Wizard and I" from Wicked, as well as in channeling Barbra Streisand on "Don't Rain on My Parade."

On Rent's "Take Me or Leave Me," she elicited some vocally impressive audience members to accompany her, making for a cute moment. Based on setlists from prior tour dates, this was seemingly a pre-planned gimmick, but when she brought a woman and daughter from the audience--perhaps friends of hers--to help hit the high notes on "Defying Gravity," it was clear we weren't getting Idina at her very best.

So my @@@@ (out of 5) rating may be a tad generous, but in factoring in several impressive moments--including the stellar CSO set with the affable Hamlisch--and a surprisingly long show, it sufficiently reflects my overall enjoyment of the evening, especially for the price I paid, if not all that precisely Menzel's technical merits on this particular night.

A few weeks ago, Menzel's Wicked co-star Kristin Chenoweth postponed a Chicago concert due to illness, and made it up a couple weeks later. I didn't go to it, but this begs the question: Would you rather have performers--particularly vocalists--reschedule or even cancel if they're not 100%? In other words, can you easier forgive the inconvenience of postponement than accept that on some nights singers may not be at their very best?


Williboy said...

I saw her in Mpls for $104 a ticket and it was lousy because she was sick. The professional thing would have been to cancel and reschedule, (Like Kristen Chenoweth did here in Mpls). But no, she gave a poor performance and moved on, with a "thanks to my peeps in Minneaapolis.." line on her Facebook page. Unprofessional. Of course she's only done 2 notable Broadway shows at this point. Seems she thinks she's already Bernadette or something. haha.

Kenia Amichi said...

I'm so sad that there are people so empty. Idina was great, even REALLY sick she did an amazing show, we laugh, had fun, feel emotional, and feel close to her as always, how know her or went to any show that she did the entire June could listen the PERFECT HEALTH VOICE and even then she was as amazing as always.
Thank you Idina and Marvin for such a great show, and Idina for being o kind to be with us even not feeling well.
And it's so funny how jealous people are, JUST 2 NOTABLE BROADWAY???
lololol you are so funny

Anonymous said...

How can you review a Ravinia concert from the lawn?
The helper singers were not set up in advance. The "woman with the young daughter" were actually a thirteen year old girl and her eight year old sister.