Saturday, November 25, 2017
Features and More

Broadway star Idina Menzel bringing her singing to the Straz Center

RECOMMENDED READING


BY JOHN FLEMING

Times Performing Arts Critic

Naturally, Idina Menzel will perform Defying Gravity during her concert Saturday in Tampa. It's the anthem of Elphaba, the green-skinned witch Menzel played in Wicked, and she never tires of singing it.

"I've taken it through many versions," she said in an interview last week. "On my own album, we made more of a jazz version of it. We made an acoustic version. Now we're back to more of a big, orchestrated, theatrical version. But whatever it is, I always get something out of it when I sing it, whether it's reminding myself of what a gift it brought me professionally and personally in my life, the whole experience with Wicked, or it's just singing to some 13-year-old girl that's hearing it for the first time."

Elphaba is one of two iconic Broadway roles associated with Menzel. She also originated Maureen, the lesbian performance artist in Rent.

"Believe me, I don't take that lightly," she said. "To have struck gold twice with Rent and Wicked. I know it's rare and I'm very lucky to have that kind of phenomenon in my life. They're not just great shows, they're shows that resonate with young audiences."

Menzel's new DVD and CD, Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, was taped last year in Toronto and aired on PBS. Marvin Hamlisch, who died in August, conducted the concert.

"I had a kind of ominous feeling," Menzel said. "Marvin had been sick on and off. But it happened very suddenly and it's been very sad for me. That someone of his stature saw something in me really penetrated deep in my soul. It has just been very surreal to be on stage without him. He was the perfect match for me because he really encouraged the humor and spontaneity. Sometimes it seemed like we were just two old Jews from the Catskills."

On tour Menzel has been performing songs from Hamlisch's score for A Chorus Line, such as What I Did for Love. Her program has also included songs from Rent and Wicked, covers of the Police's Roxanne and Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now, Broadway standards like Don't Rain on My Parade from Funny Girl and her own songs. She also has been performing Poker Face, the Lady Gaga hit she did as an acoustic duet with Lea Michele on Glee.

Saturday's concert will be conducted by Menzel's music director, Rob Mounsey, who will lead the orchestra from the piano.

Menzel, 41, lives in Hollywood with her husband, Taye Diggs (who originated the role of Benny the bad-guy landlord in Rent and portrays Dr. Sam Bennett on TV's Private Practice), and their preschooler, Walker. A Long Island native, she yearns to be back on Broadway.

"I'm in the early stages of things that excite me, in readings and workshops," Menzel said. "I'm trying to focus on original material. That is what I've had my luck with. I like to originate new roles and characters for musical theater. I definitely want to get back to New York City and do another show. I'm really missing it."

Menzel's concert is part of the Straz Center's 25th anniversary gala, which is separately ticketed ($650 and up) and includes a cocktail reception, live auction, dinner on Ferguson Hall's stage, postconcert dessert and dancing.

"That will be such an honor," Menzel said of performing for the black-tie gala. "I hope they can cut loose a little bit."

Menzel will do her part by coming on stage barefoot.

"It's nothing Joan Baez didn't do," she said. "I'm just more comfortable. All these shows have been so formal, the gowns and the whole thing, and one day, I just couldn't wear my heels. I was traveling with my son and my back was killing me, so I went out there barefoot and had a great show, and nobody cared, and I felt more myself. For me, it's just a nice balance between the formality and grandiosity of the evening and also keeping things intimate and personal."

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

MIAMI — Stiltsville, a stubborn relic of Miami’s less-glitzy past as a sun-soaked outpost, has survived Hurricane Irma’s brutal winds and waves, much to the surprise of the landmark’s caretakers and fans. Perched at the edge of sea grass flats where ...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

NEW YORKAs travel changed, so did luggage. That’s the story told by an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, the luxury luggage and fashion brand. The exhibition, free to visit and on display in Lower Manhattan through Jan. 7, is called "Volez, V...
Published: 11/24/17
Local craft beer of the week: Mischievous Black Lager

Local craft beer of the week: Mischievous Black Lager

Florida’s big year at the Great American Beer Festival, with seven Sunshine State brews medaling in the largest competition in the U.S., nearly double the second-best year of 2014, which saw four medals, one from the pro-am competition.Even more rema...
Published: 11/23/17
Aviation insurers pay $95M for 9/11

Aviation insurers pay $95M for 9/11

Associated PressNEW YORK — Insurers for American Airlines, United Airlines and other aviation defendants have agreed to pay $95 million to settle claims that security lapses led planes to be hijacked in the Sept. 11 attacks. The settlement was descri...
Published: 11/23/17
Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Bar review: Fashion and adult beverages at Bartique in St. Petersburg

Like many people, I treat holiday shopping as a terrifying last-minute ordeal — a scramble to fill out gift lists with a number of items that, despite a complete lack of planning, will somehow seem thoughtful.You know what would make this whole thing...
Published: 11/23/17
Alone for the holidays? There are plenty of ways to find joy

Alone for the holidays? There are plenty of ways to find joy

The words in the Craigslist ad are heartbreaking. "Do you know anyone out there that goes years and years being alone for the holidays?" it reads. "No family. No traditions. No one to eat dinner with. "If you are willing to open up your home to a per...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

What's in theaters for Thanksgiving: 'Coco,' 'Last Flag Flying,' 'The Man Who Invented Christmas'

NOW IN THEATERS: COCO Disney-Pixar’s animated dramedy Coco (PG) is inspired by Mexico’s annual Dia de los Muertos, the "day of the dead" when departed ancestors are celebrated. Good for diversity, although the movie isn’t as good ...
Published: 11/22/17
Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter accused of rape in 2002 by Melissa Schuman

Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter accused of rape in 2002 by Melissa Schuman

NEW YORK — Nick Carter says he’s "shocked and saddened" by accusations made by a singer who said he raped her about 15 years ago.Melissa Schuman of the girl group Dream wrote in a blog post earlier this month that she was "forced to engage in an act ...
Published: 11/22/17
Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

We want your news!Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well done. You ...
Published: 11/22/17
At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

At 107, hard work, loving family and lots of milk are retired milkman’s keys to long life

HUDSON — The oldest resident at Atria Windsor Woods just happens to be one of its newest arrivals.When he was 104, Lloyd Klement still drove his car and exercised at local gyms. And until just a few weeks ago, he still lived in his Port Richey home.N...
Published: 11/22/17