A pair of album reviews for the OG Wicked stars – Kristen Chenoweth’s For The Girls and Idina Menzel’s Christmas: A Season of Love
“You know the Queen of hearts is always your best bet”
No matter how they’ve diverged now, the careers of Kristen Chenoweth and Idina Menzel will forever be connected by Wicked and so you wonder whether their respective 2016 albums being released at the same time was ‘just’ a coincidence. And those ties just won’t quit as late 2019 sees them both dropping records, albeit with a month or two inbetween this time.
Chenoweth’s album is For The Girls, a concept album of sorts, produce by Steve Tyrell and Jon Allen, focusing on tracks either written or performed by female artists. She might not exactly reinvent the wheel with her covers, but there’s something impressive about the way in which she draws the connecting line between the country pop of her upbringing – ‘Desperado’, ‘Crazy’ – to the standards for which she’s now famed – a glorious ‘The Man That Got Away’, ‘The Way We Were’. As diverse a collection it gets, it always coheres effectively. Continue reading “Album Reviews: Kristen Chenoweth – For The Girls / Idina Menzel – Christmas: A Season of Love”
Whether through coincidence or design, the paths of original Elphaba and Glinda have intertwined once again as Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth released new albums on the same day. And it is interesting to see how their paths have diverged, both navigating the worlds of film and TV, music and of course theatre but in completely different ways, as reflected by this pair of records here.
The largely self-pennedidina. sees mine a confessional singer/songwriter route, utilising the pain of her divorce to present an emotive set of pop songs, more varied than perhaps you might expect from the power ballads for which she’s become known. To my mind, the country-ish tinge to tracks like Nothin’ In This World succeed more than the dance-oriented ‘Everybody Knows’ and the rockier edge of some tracks suits the emotional turmoil from whence they came. It’s a solid collection but I have to admit it isn’t one that particularly grabbed my attention as one that I want to return to any time soon. Continue reading “Album Review: Idina Menzel – idina. / Kristin Chenoweth – The Art of Elegance”
“Love, sweet love…no, not just for some but for everyone”
It’s no secret that Broadway cares but there’s still something extremely touching about a community coming together to help others, especially when it feels close to home. However others want to spin it, the attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was an attack on the LGBT+ community and that is something that is just chilling in its cold reality. But from such horror comes something positive too as people rally together to share love and support, solidarity and hope that no matter how dark it gets, we’re never alone.
In London, the LGBT+ community has the Pride in London Parade to spark the coming together over what will be a poignant weekend. And on Broadway, Broadway Records President Van Dean, SiriusXM Radio Host Seth Rudetsky and Producer James Wesley have pulled together a dream choir of amazing performers to record a charity single of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s ‘What The World Needs Now Is Love’ to benefit the Orlando LGBT+ community. Take a look at the video below (and be blown away by such luminaries as Audra McDonald, Bernadette Peters, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Idina Menzel and so many more) but I urge you to please buy a copy too, to support this very worthy cause.
And matching Broadway for passionate respect are the London Gay Men’s Chorus. The response to their musical tribute of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ at the Soho vigil for the Orlando victims was such that they have decided to release it as their own charity single (it had originally been intended for their 25th anniversary album later this year, and recorded just hours before the attack took place).
One of the temptations with cast recordings, and something that’s been facilitated by the dawning of the digital age, is to make a playlist of your favourite songs and then forget about the others. I am terrible for doing this – it’s why I’m word perfect on only half of Wicked – and yet I never seen to stop. If/Then is a good example of this – the edited highlights on my iPhone give the impression of a great show whereas the reality is more just good.
Predictably, these excerpts mostly include Idina Menzel’s inimitable vocal, around which Tom Kitt’s score was crafted. The delicate duet of ‘Here I Go’ with the lovely James Snyder, the stirring ‘You Learn To Live Without’, the irresistible melodic force of ‘Always Starting Over’, she’s so at home in this world of emotionally swirling tunes that it is impossible not to get swept up with her, especially in the last song’s slow-building climax. Continue reading “Album Review: If/Then (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”
“I’d lie to say I’m never sometimes always thinking of you”
I couldn’t do New York without taking the opportunity to see Idina Menzel and in lieu of battling the crowds at Times Square, tickets were booked for her starring role in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’sIf/Then. Having had the soundtrack for a wee while now, and being a big fan thereof, I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for, meaning there was none of the apparent confusion that blighted much of the initial critical response which found the show hard to follow.
Is it confusing? I don’t think so. It’s tricksy yes, as a twin set of narratives follow two different paths that newly-divorced Elizabeth could take as she moves to New York City to start her life anew. Pushing 40, she feels the clock ticking both personally and professionally and so as Liz it is the former that takes precedent and as Beth, the latter. The same friends and colleagues appear in each strand too, with different experiences so you do have to pay some attention but that’s no real hardship. Continue reading “Review: If/Then, Richard Rodgers Theatre”
First things first, Idina Menzel scores big brownie points for resisting putting ‘Let It Go’ on her first festive album (though I appreciate the decision may not have been in her control what with Disney/record company issues). Holiday Wishes (or Christmas Wishes as it seems to have been retitled for the UK market, somewhat missing the point that Menzel is Jewish…) is unlikely to convert any naysayers to this most visible of Broadway stars but it ought to, as it is a really decent collection that should appeal to many across the board.
The numbers that get the full-on old-school Broadway treatment emerge as highlights. ‘Silent Night’ may have an unnecessary coda but the whole thing is suffused with such warmth that it almost transforms the song and ‘White Christmas’ is just glorious, all marshmallowy hot-chocolately goodness culminating in a goosebump-inducingly lovely outro. Her relaxed take on ‘What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve’ is a highly classy affair as too is the self-penned ‘December Affair’, the comparative restraint in her performance paying dividends.
She also dips into more interesting waters with a jazz-inflected take on Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ which may lack a little of the outright fun of the original but brings its own musicality and singalong cheeriness. And though the trip into easy listening land with Michael Bublé on ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is a little predictable, the results just about stay on the right side of glib. Of the bonus tracks which you might need to track down, Laura Nyro’s gorgeous ‘Mother’s Spiritual’ is well done and ‘Let It Snow, Let it Snow, Let It Snow’ is exactly how you’d expect it to be.
The cumulative effect is thus rather engaging – the classics on here elevated to something special, her sustained tone beautifully enriching ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ and the more secular numbers, like Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ (which does seem to have been largely repurposed as a festive standard these days) soaring in their expansive arrangements. So whether you want to call it Holiday Wishes or Christmas Wishes, you won’t want to let it go once you’ve bought it.