Idina Menzel: A Gift in Music
I can still remember the very first time I’ve heard her voice and it was through her song “Brave” that I started to read more about her. She was the voice behind some remarkable Broadway shows and of course the Disney’s mega-blockbuster animation “Frozen” as the voice of Elsa. Idina Menzel quickly became one of the world’s hottest and most talked-about singers of 2014, with the film’s massive hit “Let it Go” single dominating the Billboard’s singles chart for 13 consecutive weeks.
“Brave” and “I Stand” were the two outstanding songs I loved from her, until I’ve known that she was also the voice of Elphaba who made “Defying Gravity” of wicked a sought-after karaoke hit and audition piece. If you are a fan, you will know the whereabouts of the person you greatly admire. She has a 5 year old son Walker Nathaniel Diggs, been married and divorced after being tied up for 11 years to her sons’ father Taye Diggs. She was born on May 30, 1971 in Syosset, New York, USA as Idina Kim Mentzel, who just turned 44 in Seoul Korea where her world tour kicked in.
Tony award-winning actress, singer and star of Frozen, If/Then, Wicked and Glee, Idina arrived in Manila afternoon of June 6, 2015 with her 5 year old boy Walker to which she was welcomed by her fans through social media including the voice coach and Broadway diva Ms. Lea Salonga. June 7, the most awaited day for theater fans and Broadway. Idina, opened her show with a cold creeping Defying Gravity where everyone in the Arena adored her to bits. Her cheeky approach made her look as awe-inspiring as she was on her Broadway shows. She is not just a woman of music, she is a woman of life, she left us an impression that we can reach and hold her, an impression that made me realize that she was worth waiting for. Her powerhouse voice commanded the Mall of Asia Arena together with the ABS-CBN Philharmonic Orchestra. She took us to her home state New York by heart. Not everyone inside the Arena, can afford a trip to New York and watch a Broadway show and she brought New York closer to us.
She’s so friendly and down-to-earth. She talked a lot of things and shared her experience. She made us feel that we’ve doing this for so long. For her, this visit was long overdue as she acclaimed, “I’ve been trying to get here! I’ve wanted to come so badly, and I finally made it!” She’s too cute if you allow that for a 44 years old Broadway diva with her banters, she commanded her stage so well as it caused her legs to pain. She stopped at one point taking off her heels and going barefoot, she’s a diva of a kind and she definitely stepped on Manila Concert Stage saying “I just need to do a little stretch. Are there any yoga teachers in the audience? It was my birthday a couple of days ago [May 30], maybe that’s a sign.” She also make fun of herself screaming reality about being a beautiful green woman as Elphaba the illegitimate daughter of Melena “You guys know Wicked over here? It’s a show about the Wicked Witch of the West. But we know about her, right? It’s about a really sweet, beautiful green woman. I was the very first one!” which drew an awesome noise from the crowd. You know that feeling when you sing your heart out and you can see an empty seats? She had felt that as she was distracted by 3 empty chairs in front. She said “It’s making me very uncomfortable. Were they here and then they left? They didn’t leave because they weren’t having a good time or anything, were they?” then somebody blamed not so stranger traffic jam that we have, “Oh, I should stall and just hang out – we could talk a little longer? Does traffic really suck here?” The crowd screamed a big “yes.” And she answered back “I get it. Let’s just do the whole thing over. They can come in. I know I already made a couple of mistakes anyway. I’d like to do it over. Plus, my leg is killing me!” She put us to excitement as she say “My girl Courtney’s going to go up probably till like really high up there. And she’s going to pick three people.” Then during the Ethel Merman Medley the family who owned the seats showed up and she was please by saying “Wonderful to have you! Should I go back and do ‘Defying Gravity?’ Something has changed within me…” which drew another loud cheers from the crowd.
Passionate performer as she is, Idina kept on exchanging ‘I Love you’s” with the crowd and she enthusiastically asked us how we say ‘I love you,” “I knew I wrote down how to say [it]. I don’t have it here. How do you say it? Mahal… kita? Mahal kita! Mahal kita!!!” She even joked that it sounded like “My guitaah! [Guitar]!” She even asked to write it on her set list asking “Can you write it down – phonetically? ‘Cause I just – like – so much going through my mind!” What’s your name? Dingdong?!” Idina cheekily laughed asking the fan, “Are you messing with me? Mahal kita, Dingdong! Ha ha ha!” She kissed and hugged him afterwards, and for sure he was elated. She also asked asked Dingdong (The lucky fan) if he could sing, “Do you know this song, Dingdong, ‘Ding-dong, the witch is dead!’
Opposing the success feeling from Wicked and Frozen Idina confided, “I would be a liar if I said that’s how I felt all the time. You know, sometimes it’s hard to get up onstage and sing those kinds of songs. And sometimes, you wake up in the morning, and you just don’t feel right about yourself, right? Sometimes… Maybe someone’s broken your heart. Sometimes, you look in the mirror and you just don’t like what you see, sometimes, you just feel like singing a Radiohead song,” and she sang “Creep” throwing herself on the floor and making us all feel that it is ok to be real.
As Idina moved to sing “Take Me or Leave Me,” she had a big surprise in store for us, “It’s a song that’s originally sung by two women. So I can’t sing along all by myself.” She picked lucky audience to sing with her. “I like it when a guy sings. It doesn’t have to be just a girl, you know,” Lucky audience like Timmy Pavino, from Team Lea in TheVoice PH Season 2 and two more girls, Carla and Andrea luckily shared the stage and mic with her sing this piece from Rent (2005) singing
“Every single day,
I walk down the street
I hear people say “Baby” so sweet!
Ever since puberty
Everybody stares at me,
Boys, girls I can’t help it, baby.
So be kind, and don’t lose your mind
Just remember, that I’m your baby…”
She then took a moment to remember and feel grateful for her friend Jonathan Larson and felt happy for her roots, where she came from… A wedding singer. She sang another Rent song “No Day But Today,” saying, “I love it so much because it reminds me of how important it is to take in the moment… Stop looking behind you, in front of you, and really try to be present, And so, I like to sing this song as a tribute and as a thank you to him – and also as a reminder of living life… how important it is to appreciate where we are.”It was an emotional moment when the audience – with phones lit up a constellation she said and sang with her. She also took time to thank her Filipino fans saying “You have been the most loving, supportive audience for years and years. As far back as I can remember – even when I didn’t even have much of a name – there were always people from the Philippines saying, ‘I see you.’ It was a remarkable moment when she finally sang “Let it go” and changed the key to a low because she surprised us by singing it in our own tongue. Yes she had her tagalog version of let it go “Bumitaw”. She was very enthusiastic, and she gave it all out. She definitely won everybody’s heart that night!
Want to know her setlist?
-Don’t rain on my parade
-The wizard and I
-River Love for sale/Roxanne
-Ethel Merman Medley
-Still I can’t be still
-Take me or leave me
-No day but today
-Always starting today
-Let it go
One of my favorite Idina’s line that night was when she said. “Manila! You’re a very sophisticated, very smart theater audience!”. Overall, the concert exceeded my expectations, amazing atmosphere, super sound and the show stared on time. They put photo booth at the lobby and for first time, I encountered staff collecting messages and gifts to be given to Idina, that was so cool. Thank you PULP Live World for taking us and our hearts to a one magical, enchanting and one of a kind show. We can’t wait to see another Broadway diva and Disney Princess for real to step here in Manila.
Written by Jo Tagudin
Photos by Glenn Michael Tan