Idina Menzel turned Wednesday night’s Kennedy Center Gala, a classic Washington society event, into basically the coolest karaoke session ever.
The Broadway star sparked a giant singalong when she solicited help from the audience to accompany her in the “Rent” duet, “Take Me or Leave Me."
First to accept the daunting challenge of singing alongside the legendary singer was a young woman named Logan. It wasn’t long before three other people eagerly ran down to the stage for their five minutes — er, 15 seconds — of fame.
“Adele Dazeem” continued to dazzle guests with renditions of her hit musical songs, including songs you love from “Wicked” and the song you love to hate, “Let it Go,” the contagious ballad from the animated children’s film “Frozen."
She shared memories of past Kennedy Center stints, such as her performance of the iconic song “Don’t Rain on My Parade” for Barbra Streisand at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors. Menzel humorously recalled Streisand’s reaction to her performance: a concise “You were good,” followed by Streisand promptly getting up and leaving the table.
And at one point in the evening, Menzel caused perhaps more envy than her legendary set of pipes did when she kicked off her heels and sauntered around barefoot — the one thing many other women in the room probably wanted to do.
By that point in the evening, guests had already been treated to a cocktail reception and dinner during which the Kennedy Center presented its Human Spirit Awards to Forest Whitaker and Chicago-based husband-and-wife power couple Pat and Shirley Ryan. Whitaker, an Academy Award-winning actor and director, founded the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative, which aims to help afflicted communities flourish. The Ryans are known primarily for their charity, the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Foundation, which provides arts funding, student scholarships and helps finance scientific research, among other things. The dinner also brought the evening’s first nod to “Rent,” when popular bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding quoted a famous line from the musical to summarize Whitaker’s charitable work: “The opposite of war isn’t peace. It’s creation.”
By the time the after-party rolled around, many of the D.C. power players who showed face earlier — such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie — had gone home. It’s hard to stay out past 10 p.m. when you’ve got a country to keep afloat. The remaining guests boogied down to the DJ in the cherry-blossom themed room, perhaps trying to get “Let it Go” out of their heads before their kids inevitably played it when they got home.