Broadway star Idina Menzel kicked off a 6-date UK tour at Bristol’s Colston Hall tonight prior to playing the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow. The last time I saw the diminutive star was in If/Then in New York but the solo concert form naturally allows the star of Rent and Wicked to reveal more of her own persona.

Is Menzel a rock chick or a musical theatre star – that is the question in this solo show. She certainly looks like a rock star with her long curly hair almost hiding her face, the black jeans and ‘worn’ jacket. The rock-style band which drown out her vocals from time to time give that illusion too.

But Menzel quickly reverts to musical theatre (with Rent’s powerful ‘Seasons of Love’ and a commanding ‘Don’t rain on my parade’ from Funny Girl) after her opening number, having come on stage some 45 minutes after start time after a rather bizarre beginning with an unannounced instrumental and vocal duo from her band who gain in power during their sprinkling of numbers.

The one hour and forty minutes set which Menzel performs without a break consists of a mixture of musicals, rock and standards, including numbers from her latest album idina. which was written in the light of the end of a 10-year relationship to the father of Menzel’s 7 year old daughter. Now Idina tells us that yes she has issues but she is ok and she’s going to get married again – she sings a song called ‘Cake’ to explain it all. Two other standouts from her album are the uplifting ‘I do’ and her encore ‘I see you’.

It’s true to say that Menzel’s audience is as diverse as her music – from 5 year old girls dressed in Disney outfits who love her Frozen persona dragging their parents along to the Wicked fans (one is ‘greened’ up as Elphaba) to dating couples (one poor man she spoke to was unaware of who she was!) and Glee fans. Menzel would not have left the stage unscathed without singing ‘Let it go’ but cranks up the audience’s emotion by inviting young children present to come up on stage and join her to sing part of it. “I’ll wait for you!” she assures one girl who is seated upstairs. It’s a hugely endearing moment – Menzel is totally at home chatting to the kids and the absolute joy she gave them is evident on their faces.

But it’s the songs from Wicked that most of us have come to hear the original Elphaba sing. The first song from the show that secured Menzel’s name in musical theatre history is a restrained, almost contemplative version of ‘I’m not that girl’ with keyboard accompaniment. Soon after, Menzel briefly leaves the stage and returns wearing ‘wings’. The wind machine gets going, both Menzel’s hair and her velcroed wings are flapping in the wind as she sings ‘Wind beneath my wings’ before we come to the number we’ve all been waiting for. ‘Defying Gravity’ starts as a more contemporary version before going into more familiar musical theatre territory as an iconic moment is recreated. Later in the show, Menzel silences the band, puts her microphone to one side, and sings ‘For good’. It’s pure theatrical magic.

Menzel returns to Rent for ‘No day but today’. One of the original cast, who lost their ‘leader’, composer Jonathan Larson, who died tragically young on the eve of that show’s success, it’s as if Menzel is still almost bewildered at how ground-breaking that show was. There’s a certain poignancy in the air as Menzel urges the audience to sing ‘No day but today’ as a refrain during the number. In these troubled times – and with numerous security personnel ensuring our safety throughout the concert – the theme of celebrating life and celebrating the moment has never been more relevant.