Friday, January 16, 2009

Idina Menzel on "Soundstage"

Broadway and recently film actress Idina Menzel returned to her beginings as a singer with an episode of the PBS show Soundstage. I am finally one up on SarahB at Adventures in the Endless Pursuit of Entertainment in knowing about a broadway star or opera singer displaying their talents on television; do not rejoice too loudly, however, because she will probably have something about it in her next post. The concert she gave was good, but I personally did not enjoy all of the pop songs she sang for the evening since I do not very much appreciate that style of music. She did sing a duet of Josh Groban's Awake with him, and Ravi Coltrane and his saxophone provided extra musical color on her original composition of Perfume and Promises. Just when I was beginning to despair, thinking that not a single song from arguably her most known role in Steven Schwartz's Wicked would surface in the set, at the end she unfurled a different version Defying Gravity, but I must admit that I like the original from the Original Broadway Cast recording best; I think that another Wicked song would have better suited the theme of the evening, that being As Long As You're Mine. I was a little disappointed that she asked Ravi Coltrane and Josh Groban to perform with her without asking Oklahoma native Kristen Chenoweth to sing a duet with her, but perhaps she is seeking a different identity than Elphaba. All I can say is that, while the concert was good, Broadway is still calling, and I believe that is where she flourishes. For anyone interested, Idina's latest release is called I Stand, and she has an official website.

Speaking of musicals, here are some of my favorite musicals and Broadway stars: Probably my favorite musical is either The Phantom of the Opera or Into the Woods. Into the Woods is also probably one of the most musically challenging , which is not to say that The Phantom of the Opera is without difficulty, but with all of Stephen Sondheim's use of atonal melodies that has garnered him the accolade of musical genius, his later works from the late '70's onward are often extremely hard to sing and play because with atonal pieces it is almost impossible to pick out a root note since the song is not built on the usual eight-note scale but with a twelve-note scale. One of the best examples of atonal music and singing is Sondheim's A Little Night Music, an often overlooked gem, particularly the duet Every Day A Little Death. My favorite song from Into the Woods, and believe me when I say that this is a hard choice to make, is either No More Questions or No One Is Alone, although the title songs, Into the Woods and the finale at the end of the show, are so much fun to perform. Some of my other favorite musicals include The Sound of Music, Wicked, Les Miserables, Seussical (yes, I performed in that one with my local community theatre), The Secret Garden, The King and I, My Fair Lady, Cinderella, and Camelot. I also have some songs that I like from musicals that are not necessarily favorites and that have become solos for singers to display their vocal abilities; some of these are: Every Day A Little Death, Remember, and Now, Later, Soon from A Little Night Music, One More Walk Around the Garden, Take Care of this House, Here I'll Stay, There's Always One You Can't Forget, and Someone's On Your Side from the canon of Alan Jay Lerner (be sure to hear Julie Andrew's CD entitled Here I'll Stay: The Words of Alan Jay Lerner for the best recordings of these songs. Ian Fraser's arrangements of these pieces are gorgeous), This Can't Be Love, Where or When?, If I Loved You, Spring Is Here, It Never Entered My Mind, Out of My Dreams, Edelwiess, Something Good, A Cockeyed Optimist, My Funny Valentine, and many others from the songbook of Richard Rodgers (you must hear the Music of Richard Rodgers recording by Julie Andrews and the Bernadette Peters Loves Richard Rodgers album by Bernadette Peters; both of them are without equal in this category of music.), and many other ballads and troubadors' lyric poems, but their respective titles escape my memory currently. Some of my favorite singers for Broadway are Julie Andrews (who does not absolutely adore her voice?), Bernadette Peters (she has such a diverse style: one minute Sondheim, the next minute Rodgers, and after that Gershwin), Liz Callaway (her Anywhere I Wander album is full of sweetly toned gems; it begs to be revisited time and again), Dawn Upshaw (who dictates that opera singers cannot sing Broadway; if you think that the former cannot sing the latter, then try hearing Upshaw's numerous albums of Broadway songs.), and Sarah Brightman. I must include a word of explanation on this last inclusion to the list: I do not enjoy much of Brightman's forays into classical repertoire, but her Broadway endeavors are divinly excellent. Well, that is all for now.


1 comment:

SarahB said...

Hahahahahahahahaha about Idina - yes, you got me, but I admit, she's pretty much off my radar. I did see her in Wicked. It was a forgetable performance to say the least.