Album review: ‘idina: live’ by Idina Menzel

By Carolina Garibay

Any avid musical theater fan knows Idina Menzel and knows that she can sing. Her voice is one of the most recognizable of musical theater, but her most recent album, “idina: live,” featuring both originals and covers, proves that Menzel’s vocal capabilities range far beyond the Broadway stage.

The album is rather lengthy with a total of 25 songs, but this allows Menzel to show off her voice in a way a lot of people aren’t used to, as well as provides listeners with an at-home concert experience.

“Queen of Swords,” an original off Menzel’s 2015 album “idina,” is a great opener for the album. Though not one of the favorites from that album, “Queen of Swords” has a positive, inspiring feel to it that starts the album off on the right foot. She follows with the show “Rent’s” “Seasons of Love,” a nod to Maureen Johnson, a role she originated on Broadway and reprised in the 2005 film. She introduces the song with a snippet of a recording of the original version of “Seasons of Love” and (unsurprisingly) nails the famous high note that everyone anticipates when hearing that song.

Menzel performs a terrific version of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which fits her voice perfectly. The first few moments are a bit dull, but as the song picks up you begin to appreciate the control Menzel has over her voice and her breathing. She takes a break from the song to converse with the audience and get to know them and does this multiple times throughout the album, which adds to the concert experience listeners will appreciate. She picks “Don’t Rain on My Parade” back up with full force and delivers a powerful ending.

The album hits its first rough patch with “Everybody Knows,” where (for the first and only time on this album) Menzel seems to struggle with her belting. The “Cake/Black Dog” mashup doesn’t contribute much to the album either. Menzel introduces “Cake,” one of “idina’s” weakest tracks that doesn’t sound much better live, and follows with a mediocre cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog.”

“For Good,” was also a disappointment (an unexpected one too) and should not have been on this album. The famous “Wicked” duet is just that – a duet and should only be a duet. Menzel’s shortened solo acapella version just didn’t do the song justice. The “Wicked” saga continues with one of her most famous songs – “Defying Gravity.” Although Menzel’s stripped-down version of the “Wicked” gem did not exactly meet my expectations, it still had the power to command a standing ovation.

“I’m Not That Girl,” is definitely the best of the “Wicked” tunes off of the album. Practically made for her, Menzel’s effortless performance of “I’m Not That Girl” shows off her lower register very nicely. Menzel also knocks it out of the park with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” where she adds her own personality to the cover. She delivers a moving performance of “No Day but Today” which she dedicates to the late Jonathan Larson who wrote the music and lyrics for “Rent”.

Menzel does an interesting mashup of The Beatles’ “Dear Prudence” and Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” It seems like a strange arrangement at first, but Menzel makes it work and adds her own little spin to both well-known songs. Menzel nears the end with a flawless performance of “Let It Go,” which shows off her incredible range and vocal control.

“idina: live” successfully balances Broadway and contemporary music, reassuring fans that they are putting their time and money towards a talented artist. Most of Menzel’s originals lack in complexity and originality, but the control, strength, and rawness of Menzel’s live voice make up for it. Idina: live brings out the emotional aspect of Menzel’s voice and her songs that are not always evident in the studio versions, and offers an immersive concert experience that listeners will love.