Assuming Idina Menzel needs no introduction on this site, let's get straight to it: I saw her concert at the Royal Albert Hall in 2011, and while it was a thrill to see a Broadway performer of her calibre live, and although she was never anything less than thoroughly charming, I was struck by the disconcerting thought that her voice wasn't quite of the standard I had hoped and expected it would be. I may have been alone: on the night she received a standing ovation, but I couldn't help but be slightly disappointed, particularly by the crescendo of her most celebrated song, and one that will be inextricably linked with her for the rest of her career, 'Defying Gravity'.
Menzel is back in London for a week of shows at the Apollo Theatre, and it's clear from the opening number, 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', that her voice - accompanied by a sublime 25-piece orchestra - is on top form. It's immediately followed by a terrific rendition of 'The Wizard and I' which further allays any lingering doubts over her vocal health. From then on, the enthusiastic audience is treated to a selection of songs from her best-known musicals RENT and Wicked, a couple of Broadway standards ('What I Did For Love', 'Don't Rain On My Parade') and some original material, which turns out to be very good indeed.
The between-song patter is warm and funny - Menzel is effortlessly likeable, and her spontaneous banter with a man in the front row is hilarious. The audience participation doesn't stop there: she later halts her performance of 'Take Me Or Leave Me' from RENT, noting that it's a duet and she needs someone to sing it with. Lifted down from the stage (by the aforementioned front row man), she invites anyone who fancies it up to sing the song with her. Three people have a go, and they're all good, but what really impresses is Menzel's willingness to transfer the spotlight at her own show.
The intimate evening ends with a new song by the composer/lyricist team of Next to Normal, lending credence to rumours suggesting Menzel is involved in a new musical of theirs, and a lovely rendition of 'Somewhere' from West Side Story, her "favourite song of all time". She tells us she's touched by the reception she has received, and while she may well say that every night of the run, it seems genuine. And in turn, the audience's two standing ovations feel heartfelt and are undoubtedly well-earned.
And as for 'Defying Gravity' - she nails it.