Idina Menzel, Tony Award winner for ‘Wicked,’ comes to the stage of the Midland Center for the Arts
MIDLAND, MI — She starred in the original stage production of “Rent,” played Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West in “Wicked,” and has a reoccurring role in the FOX TV series “Glee.”
What’s next for singer, songwriter Idina Menzel?
A stop at the Midland Center for the Arts as part of Matrix:Midland.
When Menzel hits the stage June 26, fans will be treated to music from her PBS special and CD “Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony,” recorded at Koerner Hall in Toronto, as well as a few new tunes in a career she says is ever evolving.
A career that began when she was a little girl.
Although her mother wouldn’t let her work at a young age, she became a wedding and bar mitzvah singer at age 15.
“I sang on weekends at halls nearby,” she said. “That was my professional start because I was making money.”
Pounding the pavement for a few years, Menzel got her big break in the original stage production of “Rent.”
Menzel has bittersweet memories of opening night.
“That was a very unique experience,” she said. “Our creator Jonathan Larson passed away during dress rehearsal,” she said. “That changed the entire climate of the experience. It became more about him and not about yourself. It was a great lesson to learn early on in your career.”
“Rent” was also the place she met Taye Diggs, who would become her husband.
Then came “Wicked” and a Tony Award for her portrayal of Elphaba, a character with whom she feels a connection.
“She’s a force, a beautiful woman,” she said. “She was misunderstood and had all this power. Like women in society, it’s hard to be really strong and powerful and talented without alienating people around you.
“Sometimes we, as women, stifle those impulses in ourselves,” she added. “She was doing the same thing. At a creative point you can’t do that, you have to let it out and not be afraid to be incredible and the people who love you will be with you.”
For Menzel being incredible on stage comes as easy as breathing. In fact, she says she is more comfortable on stage than in her own life.
“I escape out of my body, it’s where I live,” she said. “Where I feel most myself. I love communicating with a live audience and the reciprocity that is there. It’s a give and take and the energy gets thrown back and forth. The spontaneity that anything can happen.”
Up next is a return to Broadway in a brand new original show. Although she won’t spill any beans, Menzel says she is working with several different composers and writers.
“I do readings and workshops with them,” she said. “I love being in the process and it’s worked for me in “Rent” and “Wicked,” both being original pieces.”
When she’s not on stage, Menzel says her life is a learning experience. Learning how to combine the careers of two people that aren’t 9 to 5ers, and raising son, Walker, who is on the summer tour.
Making it all work is all about communication, and not being in separate cities for long periods of time.
“It’s knowing deep inside we are being our best selves as parents because we are doing the things we love,” she said. “Our son has great role models because he sees us at our best.”
And if young Walker decides to go into the family business? Although Menzel would prefer he do something else, she says he can do whatever he wants to do. And, adds the proud mom, he will excel at whatever he does.
Walker pretty much spawned the name of the special and CD and the Midland show. Menzel learned it’s not easy lugging around a child in a pair of high heels. Barefoot was the answer.
Excited as she is about the new show, she’s also excited to make Midland a stop on her tour.
“I think they will really enjoy it,” she said. “I try to make every show unique to that city, be in the moment and spontaneous. In addition to hearing some good singing, I want them to leave the theater knowing they got to know me a little bit.”