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Monday, February 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Eclectic company

Expect everything from Sting to Streisand to Cole Porter when Idina Menzel performs with the Symphony on Sunday

By Jim Kershner I Jimk@Spokesman.Com, (509) 459-5493

Idina Menzel is the kind of singer whose credits include the New York Philharmonic, the Lilith Fair, the White House (in front of the Obamas) and the kinky off-Broadway musical “The Wild Party.”

In other words, she’s a performer of eclectic musical accomplishments.

In fact, Menzel uses the word “eclectic” to describe the show she’ll do with the Spokane Symphony on Sunday at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. You’ll hear some Streisand; you’ll hear some Sting.

Reached by phone at the Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, actor Taye Diggs, and their young son, Walker, Menzel said she’ll do some of her own original songs as well as “some old standards, some Cole Porter.”

Almost as an aside, she mentions that she’ll “do songs from the shows I’ve been in.”

And what shows. Here’s a short list:

“Glee” – Menzel had a recurring role in the first season of this hit TV series as Shelby Corcoran, the coach of Vocal Adrenaline, a rival glee club. Her performances of “I Dreamed a Dream,” “Funny Girl” and “Poker Face” have been released as singles.

By the way, she recently performed “Poker Face” with the New York Philharmonic in what must have been that orchestra’s first-ever cover of a Lady Gaga tune (it will no doubt be a Spokane Symphony first as well).

“Rent” – Menzel originated the role of Maureen in this groundbreaking rock musical in 1996 and landed a Tony nomination. You can expect her to sing one of her signature songs from that show, “Another Day” (“No Day But Today”).

“Wicked” – Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in this Broadway smash and won the Tony for Best Lead Actress in a Musical. At Sunday’s concert, you’ll probably hear her do “I’m Not That Girl,” “Defying Gravity” and “For Good.”

Speaking of “Wicked,” Menzel laughed when she heard the national tour would be arriving in Spokane three days after her concert.

“OK, then, I can set up how the song is supposed to sound, before the new girl comes in,” she said.

She was joking, but she can be forgiven for being a little bit possessive about the role of Elphaba (aka the Wicked Witch of the West). She worked for years with the show’s writers and composer, through workshops and readings, to develop this unforgettable character.

“It was fun, but it was really challenging and emotional for me,” said Menzel. “It was four years of my life that were dedicated to playing this character and hoping the show was going to continue.

“It really explores a lot of emotions that we all have … of being ostracized and being singled out and bullied and being different.”

She said her years working in “Wicked” were “the greatest time in my life” – but also among the toughest, since she “wanted it to be special and great and I was really hard on myself.”

She left “Wicked” in 2005 after 15 months on Broadway.

Today, she is concentrating on her current tour – a stark contrast to her days in Lilith Fair and some of her solo tours.

“Instead of going out with a rock band, I’ve been going out with these symphonies,” she said. “It’s really nice because I’m standing there in front of these really wonderful orchestras, and there’s this really marvelous cohesion that happens.

“I can do a song by Sting, and a song from the show ‘Wild Party’ and it all ends up in the same family, because it has that elegance.”

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