Josh Groban & Idina Menzel – Wells Fargo Center – Philadelphia, PA – November 12, 2018
Broadway came to the Wells Fargo Center on Monday as Josh Groban (The Great Comet of 1812, the album Stages) and diva Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent) shared the stage.
Menzel opened the night with a stellar set, mixing her stage and film favorites as well as a few cannily chosen covers. No surprise, of course, that she pulled out her version of Barbra Streisand’s Funny Girl classic “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and her lovely solo single “Extraordinary.” More surprising was a mash-up of Frozen’s “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and the Beatles classic “Dear Prudence,” which merged surprisingly well.
And, of course, she did a swooning version of the ubiquitous Frozen theme “Let It Go.” Menzel also did a surprisingly sultry, stripped-back, slowed-down cover of the Modern English new wave classic “I Melt with You.”
Then, she climaxed the night with four songs from her biggest Broadway hits – two songs from Rent (“Take Me or Leave Me” and “No Day but Today) and two from Wicked (“For Good” and a soaring “Defying Gravity,” plus she had earlier in the set also done “The Wizard and I” from the show).
Far from his pop-opera beginnings, Groban’s set showed a tuneful and varied ear for modern balladry, mixing dramatic instrumentation, show-stopping theatricality and his sweet-but-virile voice. (It’s probably not a stretch to call him the modern Barry Manilow – and yes, I mean that as a compliment.)
He picked some smart showtunes from his Stages album – a lovely version of “Bring Him Home” Les Misérables and the Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory favorite “Pure Imagination.” He did some smart and pointed originals, including the self-reliance anthem “Granted,” the pointedly morose “River” and the gorgeous “Awake.” He also did a sweet solo piano cover of Billy Joel’s hit “She’s Always a Woman.”
Groban further showed his versatility by performing three songs in foreign languages, two in Italian (“Oceano” and “Alla luce del sole”) and one in Spanish (“Musica del Corazon”). He even reached way back in his career to do an encore of “To Where You Are,” a song from his breakthrough role on the TV series Ally McBeal.
Probably the best section was when Groban called Menzel back on stage. Their voices meshed perfectly as they did two show-stopping duets – their recent charity collaboration “Lullaby” and a simply stunning cover of “Falling Slowly” from Once.
Then he finished off with a plea for peace and understanding, with an understated and lovely cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” (Ironically, the last time I saw Menzel performing, back in April, she also did a version of that song.)
The artists were a nearly perfect pairing for fans of musical theater. If you can’t catch them on Broadway, this was the next best thing.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: November 16, 2018.
Photos by Isa Barnett © 2018