On Thursday evening, David and I left our two kids with a babysitter and a few flashlights (we’d had a major storm that took out our power, knocked down a branch and shattered our lamppost), and headed off to see Broadway and Glee diva Idina Menzel at the Mann Music Center, an outdoor venue that hosts all kinds of stuff every summer.
OK, she can sing — well enough to make the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra wonder why they spent countless thousands of hours studying incredibly difficult instruments only to be back-up to a (pretty clever) cover version of “Poker Face.” (To her credit, Menzel, who studied at NYU, really did seem to understand and appreciate the talent behind her; she thanked them profusely and endlessly.)
She should have done more of that, and less of her incomprehensible, meandering, and self-absorbed stage patter. At her best when she sparred with idiot hecklers in the audience — just the right mix of pissed and playful — she otherwise rambled about various and sundry aspects of her — as she knows you surely know — amazing career. Most of the time I had no idea why she was putting one thought next to each other. I felt as though I was being subjected to live broadcasts of random neural firings.
You wouldn’t expect such a person to be a good songwriter, and Menzel isn’t. Or at least she should never be permitted to write another lyric. She sang one of her self-penned dance hits, Gorgeous, which has a shamelessly catchy pop hook, but features these wince-worthy words:
When all of the beauty turns to pain,when all of the madness falls like rain, as long as we crash and we collide, we will be gorgeous you and I.
Well, it could have been worse. As a proud and often surprisingly irony-challenged parent, I’m reluctant to criticize others for cooing about their kids. But her paean to her infant son, Walker, was enough to make me want to call the Department of Human Services. I could imagine her belting out the song she’s constructed to her helpless child, drawing screams that she probably mistakes for the adulation of her fans. And she was singing about his dreams, which are supposed to have included such storybook stock characters as — wait for it — unicorns.
OK — the kid is still an infant, about nine months old. He’s not dreaming about unicorns. Menzel, apparently, can defy both gravity and neuroscience.