Idina Menzel’s musical journey
Broadway star Idina Menzel doesn’t have a long list of dream roles she hopes to play some day.
“I really think that I want those roles that haven’t been written yet,” she said in a telephone interview. “I really want to originate roles. I’ve had so much success with that process, and I love it very much — just having the privilege of being with the writers, with the creative team, in the privacy of their home while they’re working and being given that window into what they’re doing. It’s a beautiful thing for me, and to watch it unfold is very rewarding.”
She’s intimately familiar with all of that. She was involved early on in both “Rent” and “Wicked,” creating the roles of self-involved performance artist Maureen Johnson in the former and the powerful, misunderstood enchantress Elphaba in the latter. She was nominated for a Tony for “Rent,” and won for “Wicked.”
Other bullet points from her career: She has a recurring role in “Glee” as Rachel Barry’s birth mom, and has also appeared in a few episodes of her husband Taye Diggs’ medical drama “Private Practice.”
She’ll take a musical journey through her career in a Majestic Theatre concert next week. It’s part of a national tour to promote her terrific new CD and DVD, “Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony.”
One of the highlights of the CD is her rendering of “No Day But Today,” one of the songs in “Rent.” It concludes with a moving call-and-response between Menzel and the audience of “No day but today.”
“I’m not religious, but it is sort of like a prayer,” she said. “I use it as a meditation and a reminder whenever I’m performing to take in the moment and be aware of where I am and what I’ve accomplished and that kind of thing.”
The song, she said, “is the finale song (in ‘Rent’), and it’s hauntingly perfect because we lost (creator) Jonathan Larson so early in that process, and we had to sing that song like a mantra every night. It has a very deep significance for us. Art was imitating life for us every night while we were onstage.”
Larson died the day of the show’s first preview performance to its off-Broadway run.
“We didn’t cancel,” Menzel recalled. “We canceled the ticket buyers, but everybody that knew him came to the theater, and we said, ‘We are going to sing through the music’; we didn’t do the staging. We just did it as a catharsis, as a healing thing for anybody that wanted to come by. By Act II, it turned into a celebration of him; it took on a life of its own.”
The Majestic audience can expect to hear something from “Rent” as well as “Defying Gravity,” her signature song from “Wicked.” That song, too, has a lot of meaning for her.
“Finding a new song in your voice is interesting — sometimes, it feels very foreign,” she said. “But that song was just there for me.”
The show felt special to her personally from the beginning, she said, but she didn’t sense that it had the potential to be as huge as it did.
“I just knew it made me feel something inside and that I connected to it in a deep, deep way when I sang the music,” she said. “I would leave the audition and just cry, I wanted it so badly, and I felt so connected to the journey of Elphaba.”
In concert, she’ll also sing some pop music and a few standards, and she’ll share stories from her life. “I’m coming from a place where these are songs that I’ve been dying to sing or songs that chronicle my life that I want to revisit and explore with the audience.”