I got to sing with Idina Menzel. I keep saying that over and over again because I can barely believe it. Not just because I think she’s a killer diva either.
I’ve really only attended a handful of concerts in my life, despite loving music as much as I do. Concerts like Madonna are just way too big to really enjoy, especially when you’re sitting miles away from the stage and still paying a tonne of cash for the experience. When I get the chance to see a singer work on a stage in a theatre, however, I’m always way more excited. Especially when it’s someone like Idina Menzel, who’s been an idol of mine for a long time.
On June 1st, 2012, I spent the day being very excited about seeing her show at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. Admittedly, I’m a child at heart so I’d been dreaming of Idina coming down into the theatre to invite me to sing with her onstage. We’d tear up a mean duet of “As Long As You’re Mine” from Wicked, or maybe just Happy Birthday. Who cares?! It’s Idina Menzel. I’d sing the phone book with her.
Near the end of her concert, she asked for a bit of help from the crowd in the form of some “lesbian lovers” for the RENT song “Take Me or Leave Me”, which was a bummer, because I figured I’d make a really terrible lesbian. I grumbled something to my husband about being SUPER JEALOUS of the two girls being asked up onstage. Alas, those ladies would have a hell of a story to tell and I’d get to witness a couple of dreams come true for those two lovely RENT-heads.
Suddenly… ”C’mon… where are my queens at?!”
Like an electric charge had just traveled through my chair, I sprang to my feet screaming. Idina turned. She looked at me.
“Alright. Let’s go.”
My jaw dropped, I instantly became a 14 year old and I stood frozen, staring at my husband wondering if that had just happened.
“You better go!” he said.
I gave him my cellphone and headed towards the stage.
Now, I know every single word to the RENT soundtrack without exception. It was the musical that made me realize musicals could actually talk about something substantial, something relevant, something more than a boy and girl romance highlighted by eye-high kicks and tap dancing. I’ve wanted to play Mark my entire life and still do. I would settle, quite happily, for a few bars as Joanne.
Friends, I’ve never been plagued by stage fright in my life, but after I got on to the deck, gave Idina Menzel a hug and said “Oh my god, thank you SO MUCH”, there wasn’t a single lyric to that song in my head. Nada. Nothing. No words. Just “holy shit I’m gonna fuck this up.”
The last time I stood on that same stage was for an audition. I had just gotten out of theatre school and The Centre had re-opened with a full season of shows planned. I’d stood in line at a huge cattle call and finally had my five minutes, at the end of which, a red light would go off and I was to leave the stage. Not really thinking anything would come of it, I decided to just have a great time out there and enjoy being on that big stage with hundreds and hundreds of empty chairs looking back at me. Forget the Artistic Director and his casting people, I was there to have some fun. It ended up being a strong audition, and they chased me down on my way out of the building to say they hoped we’d be working together. I was happy!
Ten years or so later, I’m back on the stage. Very few seats are empty, and the lights are on. A calm, loving voice popped into my head saying “dude… just roll with it. Who cares how it sounds? Just have fun on this stage like you did all those years ago. Kill it.”
The YouTube video below will show you how it went. A rough start for yours truly, but I recovered. The only thing that mattered to me was being able to take a bow holding her hand, giving her another hug at the end of the song, a kiss on the cheek and one last “thank you”.
For me, the final ‘thank you’ was for the hours I spent as a teenager listening to RENT in my darkest hours. It was for the number of times I played “Defying Gravity” on repeat, having my breath taken away imagining Elphaba lifting off the ground for the first time. For all the showers spent dancing to “Life of the Party”, wondering what she did on the stage in that killer song. It was for being able to see someone put their heart and soul into everything they sang on the stage that night, seeing that the passion I’d heard on those soundtracks was nothing compared to what she gives as a person.
I’m forever grateful for being able to share a few bars with that talented woman.
Plus, she smells REALLY GOOD. Who smells that good after rocking out a whole concert?!