Flying high with Idina Menzel
When Idina Menzel landed the role of Maureen Johnson in “Rent” in 1995, she had no idea it would be her big break on Broadway — or that she would meet her future husband, castmate Taye Diggs.
“I was a struggling wedding singer/bar mitzvah singer, and I was just happy to get this job in the midst of January and February because there’s no weddings in that time, so I needed work,” the New York native said.
“The first day we sang ‘Seasons of Love’ that we learned in rehearsal, I thought this beautiful song is special, but I had no idea to what extent that would be. And as far as my husband goes, I thought he was really hot, but I didn’t think we had very much in common,” Menzel said and laughed.
Her star rose to new heights when she played Elphaba in the original Broadway cast of “Wicked,” singing “Defying Gravity” while soaring above the stage of the Gershwin Theatre from 2003-05.
“[Singing that song on Broadway is] a different sensation, but it’s still thrilling for me, especially now because I feel so lucky to have a song like that in my life that people know so well, that people love, and it’s a beautiful way to revisit ‘Wicked’ for me every night,” she said during a call from her tour bus in Texas.
Fans can hear it live when Menzel performs at 8 p.m. June 27 at the Detroit Opera House. Tickets range from $35.50 to $95.50.
As the Wicked Witch of the West, she won the Tony Award for best performance by a leading actress in 2004.
Because she was in “Wicked,” Menzel’s life was changed — for good.
“There’s the platform that it puts me on as a role model that I’ve become because of what that character represents and how young people connect with her, so that’s a huge responsibility that I embrace and I love,” she said.
“The most important, significant aspect of playing Elphaba was, as women, we are often afraid and let our true power, our true strengths, kind of be eliminated in society because we don’t want to seem threatening or off-putting. And I had to learn that about myself, as a human being, that I wasn’t doing anybody any favors by stifling, quelling those things that make me special.”
These days she’s embracing her beauty, that amazing voice — and singing shoeless.
“Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony” was released as a CD and DVD by Concord Records in March. A special also aired on PBS.
The singer offers glimpses of her life through music by Cole Porter, The Police, Barbra Streisand and Lady Gaga.
“Some songs chronicle a specific time in my life that I wanted to share with the audience, so the Cole Porter song is from my college days, Lady Gaga is ‘Glee,’ ” she said.
On “Glee,” Menzel played Shelby Corcoran, mother of Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).
“I liked being on that show; I liked being around all those talented singers and dancers. It makes me feel like I’m in New York a little bit more when I’m stuck in LA,” she joked.
Soon Menzel will work on a project for the big screen: She’ll be the voice of the Snow Queen in Walt Disney’s “Frozen,” based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”
“This is a dream of mine come true; I had a little piece of it in ‘Enchanted’ [as Nancy Tremaine], but this is a whole different ballgame,” she said. “As soon as I get off tour, I go into the studio and really start getting into it.”