BWW Interviews : Idina Menzel Never Had A Backup Plan

Idina Menzel grew up in New York and always loved to sing As Idina got older, she knew that music was her passion and she wanted to perform on Broadway someday. Her mom encouraged her to pursue her education first and not perform professionally as a child. “She wanted me to go to school and go to college. Then after that I could figure out what I wanted to do.” She figured out that the only thing she wanted to do was to be onstage. She never had a back-up plan.

Recently, Idina took time out of her busy tour and her busy life to catch up with Broadway World and share with us how she balances it all. Idina has been travelling with her son for the first time and is busy trying to figure out how to do it all. “I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job. (As) moms, we just do it. There is a lot of good planning and good help.” Her husband, Taye Diggs is very supportive and helps out a lot. She said that it’s great that she is getting to do so many things that she loves which is very important to her. (more…)

Gleefully Wicked: Q&A with Idina Menzel

Maybe you know her as Elphaba in the original Broadway cast of “Wicked,” perhaps you saw her as Maureen in the original Broadway cast of “Rent” (or the movie version) or possibly you caught her appearances on television’s “Glee.”

Regardless of your first introduction, once you’ve heard Idina Menzel sing, you can’t forget her. Menzel, 41, will bring her powerful voice and playful stage presence to the Peabody Opera House on Sunday, part of a 30-city tour that stretches into December.

“As prepared and rehearsed as I am, I always leave a lot open so I can be in the moment in each city,” Menzel said in a phone interview from Santa Rosa, Calif. “It can be scary for me, but it’s important for people to feel that each concert is special, individual, just for them.”

Fair warning: Menzel likely will perform barefoot, a decision she made after a recent concert left her hurting from the stylish heels she had worn. She later noted that performing barefoot allows her to feel free and relaxed.

Menzel, who is Jewish, was born in Queens and grew up in Syosset, N.Y. At 15, she started singing at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and she continued to sing for her supper while attending Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, where she earned a B.A. degree in drama. “Rent,” which she auditioned for in 1995, was her first professional theater job and led to her Broadway debut.

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In a musical or alone on stage, Idina Menzel gets the same adrenaline rush

Idina Menzel’s voice is just as recognizable as her face. With strong appearances on Broadway, in movies, and TV, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know her name.

This Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Menzel will perform at the Peabody Opera House as part of her 30-city tour that runs through the end of this year. (For more information or tickets, go to peabodyoperahouse.com/performance/idina-menzel.)

Menzel

Menzel

After making her Broadway debut in the original cast of “Rent” and then starring as Elphaba in “Wicked” in 2003, she has appeared in various other shows and has also recorded four solo albums. In more recent years, she appeared in the movie version of “Rent” as well as “Enchanted,” and has a recurring role on “Glee” as the mother of character Rachel Berry.

When not touring, Menzel lives in New York with her husband, Taye Diggs, and their 2-year-old son, Walker.

Relaxing in Little Rock, Ark. on her day off between shows, Menzel made time to answer a few questions.

Beacon: You have your son with you on tour right now – what’s the best part about him being there? (more…)

Full of “Rent,” “Wicked” and “Glee,” Idina Menzel comes to the Marcus Center

She created major characters in two musicals that inspired feverish followings. She has starred in three hits, each with a single word for its title.

She is charmingly candid about things many celebrities don’t discuss. She likes to perform barefoot. And she is coming to the Marcus Center.

Idina Menzel’s life and career have been on a long upward arc since her teenage years as a Long Island wedding and bar mitzvah singer. Her first professional theater job out of college was playing the self-absorbed, bi-sexual performance artist Maureen Johnson in “Rent.”

The show was a Broadway sensation, winning a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and capturing the imagination of a generation of “Rentheads.” Menzel received a Tony nomination. Not bad for a beginner. (more…)

Idina Menzel Talks “Barefoot at the Symphony”, Upcoming Tour, and More

“It’s probably the most enjoyable album I’ve ever made because I didn’t have to think about it too much,” Idina Menzel says of her latest release Barefoot at the Symphony. “I just had to get up and perform. In the past, I’d be in the studio racking my brain for a year and a half to put my soul out there. Of course when I wasn’t thinking so much, it came out the best [Laughs].”

Menzel’s inimitable and invigorating voice carries the live concert to the heavens with unparalleled power. Her presence and charisma remain a focal point as well. Not only can she nail the drama and vitality of the numbers, but she does it with panache. Every facet of the Tony® Award-winning Broadway luminary and Glee star is showcased live on stage at The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall in Toronto during this show. It’s aired on PBS, but you’ve got to get the CD and DVD for the multiple listens and viewings it deserves.

With a summer tour on the horizon, audiences will also have the chance to experience Menzel up close and personal. She’s one of the 21st century’s most incredible performers, and Barefoot at the Symphony illuminates that fact.

In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Idina Menzel talks Barefoot at the Symphony, her upcoming tour, and so much more.

Do you feel like Barefoot at the Symphony is the best representation of every facet of you?
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INTERVIEW: Idina Menzel On Queer Crushes, Hubby’s Gay Tendency and Her ‘Nice’ Feet

 

Idina Menzel doesn’t do anything halfway – even when she’s deciding on her gay faves. “It’s so silly,” says the homo-hearted theater queen, surfing Google for “hot gay male celebrities.” Her assistant even gets involved. “This is very important stuff,” Menzel giggles, fully immersed in her search to name her current gay crush.

Neil Patrick Harris? Too typical. George Michael? Maybe 20 years ago.

“Oh, I could do a woman” she realizes, before catching the unintentional humor in that: “I mean, not do a woman.”

And on she goes, scouring the web relentlessly. Again, she laughs. “(My assistant) just went onto a gay porn site. That’s helpful!”

Ten minutes later, she’s got it: Jane Lynch, Wanda Sykes and Anderson Cooper, because “that makes me sound really smart.” Not that she has to sound anything except beautiful, and that she already does – as demonstrated in her 20 years on stage, from “Rent” to “Wicked” (originating the roles of Maureen and Elphaba, respectively), and as a cradle-robber on “Glee.”

Now the ever-sweet Broadway diva has a new live album, “Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony,” airing on PBS Saturday, before she hits the road this summer for a series of tour dates (Menzel will perform June 27 at the Detroit Opera House; tickets are on sale Monday, March 5). She caught up with us recently to talk toes, hubby Taye Diggs’ gay tendency and learning the real definition of “white party.”

“Barefoot at the Symphony” is the name of the new album – do you have nice feet?

They’re all right. My toes are pretty in proportion to each other. No weird toes.

Is the second toe longer than the big toe?

No, they’re actually nice like that. It’s just that – from working out and stuff – my heels are always dry. But the toes are nice!

Will your tour be a lot like this album?

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Idina Menzel Gets Symphonic (And Barefoot)

 

IDINA MENZEL X390 (COURTESY) | ADVOCATE.COM

Thanks in part to her creation of two iconic and much-loved roles — Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked — Tony Award–winner Idina Menzel is a gay fan favorite whose powerful voice is always in demand on Broadway and the concert stage. In the new Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony — filmed at Toronto’s historic Royal Conservatory of Music and airing on PBS Saturday, followed by an album, DVD, and digital download available Tuesday — the fabulously chatty belter (and wife of Private Practice star Taye Diggs) reaches back into the amazing musical repertoire that she’s spent over 20 years putting together.

The Advocate: Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony features lots of songs that fans would expect you to perform as well as some surprises. How did you choose the material?
Idina Menzel: The idea of having this magnificent, thrilling orchestra behind you is incredible, and yet it can be daunting, so I wanted music that would live and breathe but also strike a balance and maintain an intimacy. It’s an eclectic mix. There’s a lot of theatricality, but then there are moments when I talk to the audience and get personal, so it sort of came from that. I knew I wanted to share certain aspects of my life, so I figured out which songs would chronicle that.

When doing a concert like this, how involved are you in the musical arrangements?
I’m very involved. I sit with Rob Mounsey, my MD [musical director], at the piano and we strip things down to just piano and vocal and talk about where we want to be adventurous.

For your signature songs, is it important to rework them?
Yes, but I have to be careful. A song like “Defying Gravity,” which I’ve sung so many times, in the past I’ve tried to mess with it too much. This time around, with the orchestra behind me, I decided to just sing it. My goal was to evoke that amazing moment in the show [Wicked], so I went back in that respect and really didn’t shy away from the drama and the theatricality of that moment.

Speaking of “Defying Gravity,” why do you think so many people respond to that song?
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Idina Menzel on her PBS special and Ravinia concert

Broadway star Idina Menzel is known for creating roles in two of the biggest musical-theater phenomena of recent decades, playing fiery performance artist Maureen in Rent and misunderstood, green-skinned Elphaba in Wicked, winning a Tony Award for the latter. She’s also recognizable to Glee fans as recurring character Shelby Corcoran, the biological mother of Lea Michele’s character. The Ravinia Festival announced last week that Menzel will perform in concert there on July 8, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by another Tony winner—actually, an EGOT winner—Marvin Hamlisch.

Chicago audiences can get a preview tonight of what that July bill might look like, as WTTW airs the exclusive premiere of Menzel’s new PBS special, Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, which also features Hamlisch along with an appearance by Menzel’s husband, Taye Diggs. Menzel will be live in-studio to introduce the special, which airs at 9pm; she’ll also appear on Chicago Tonight at 7pm. She called me this morning, just after guesting on Windy City Live, to talk about the special, which will hit PBS affiliates in other markets beginning March 3, followed by a DVD release.

How did the concert special come about?

It’s my first TV special that’s sort of all by myself. It’s my baby. We filmed it in Toronto; it’s the culmination of about a year and a half of touring, with orchestras and symphonies all over the country and international—we had a big concert at Royal Albert Hall in London. I felt really proud of the show, and when PBS came and wanted to film it, it’s so rewarding for me to be able to have it and look back on it, have something documented.

What kind of material can viewers expect to see?

It’s somewhat eclectic. I do songs from the shows that I’ve been in; I do some standards.

Is there anything that might be unexpected to audiences that are familiar with your work?

Yeah, I think. What I’m told, anyway, that’s most unexpected is that I think people having seen me in the green makeup or something and this big, big voice expect everything to feel very theatrical and dramatic. [The special] has that, but everything is grounded in a very intimate place. No matter how big the symphony is behind me, I try to maintain an intimacy with the audience. I really share a lot of personal stories.

I understand your husband makes an appearance as well?

He does. We love to sing together but don’t get to do it very often. It’s how we met, in Rent. He does a wonderful job; we have a little fun with each other.

The orchestra for the special [Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony] is conducted by Marvin Hamlisch—

The legendary Marvin Hamlisch.

He’ll also be appearing with you at Ravinia this summer, conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Exactly. Because he’s the love of my life. We’re having an affair. [Laughs]

Do you two have a longstanding relationship?

We’re relatively new. We met in this process, over the last year and a half. We’ve done—I don’t know how many shows, ten, 15 shows together? After the very first show, which was down in Wolf Trap in D.C., it was just sort of love at first sight. When I’m onstage and he’s conducting, I have to pinch myself. It’s such an honor. But then when you get to know him in person, he’s the sweetest, most authentic, generous man, with the greatest stories.

Aside from the Ravinia concert, what else is coming up for you? 

Well, this has sort of monopolized my time all through the holidays, getting this PBS special in the can as they say, because what goes along with it is a live DVD and a live CD. So that’s been actually really exciting—it’s the easiest album I’ve ever had to make because it came out organically: It’s live, it’s there, once you do it you can’t overthink it too much. It’s been fun to work on a live album and keep the imperfections that are perfections, you know?

On top of that, I’m a mother of a two-year-old. I took him to Disneyland with my husband over the holidays. And I’m in and out of Glee, and working on other possible Broadway or theater endeavors in New York City that wouldn’t be ready for a little while. But mostly I’m just a mom of a two-year-old, with an album coming out.

 

Kris Vire, Time Out Chicago -  Jan 9, 2012

Diggs on pregnancy and babies

Whether you’re talking about parts of parenthood that dads have no personal experience with, like pregnancy hormones, or those that some might grumble about, like changing diapers, I’m here to share my perspective. Get ready for my take on pregnancy, babies and fatherhood.

Dirty diapers

You might be surprised by my take on changing diapers, but I grew up as the oldest in a family of five, so I changed all of my siblings’ diapers. When it comes to fatherhood, we’re playing catch-up. I can’t carry a baby or breastfeed, but I sure can change a dirty diaper.

With my son Walker, I wanted to be there as much as possible and changing his diapers was just one of the ways I could accomplish that. If we dads think about it in that manner — spending as much time with our babies as possible — it’s about more than a stinky diaper.

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The naked truth: Idina Menzel reveals why she’ll be shoeless — and maybe dress-less — for Houston Symphony shows

It’s not everyday that the Houston Symphony has an attention-starved, bisexual, green-faced, adoptive wicked mom who prefers to fly by broomstick on the Jones Hall stage. These are just some of the characters that have made Idina Menzel a household name just about everywhere.

The men love her. The gays want to be her. And the ladies drool over her husband Taye Diggs (have you seen the abs?)

Menzel’s rise to the ranks of celeb began with her 1996 Broadway role as Maureen Johnson in the original Rent, the musical that updated the story of Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme and made numbers cool via the song “525,600.” She received a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical.

Ironically, it was Menzel yelling “fuck” emphatically after cackling the high note in the midst of her Wicked audition — “Defying Gravity” is not for the weak — that helped earn her a spot as Elphaba in that hit musical.

When it rains, it pours. Menzel won a Tony, three Broadway.com Audience Awards and a Drama Desk Award for the role. With her appearances in the TV hit Glee as Shelby Corcoran, now the former coach of rival show choir Vocal Adrenaline, the 40-year-old is at the top of her game.

We caught up with the busy actress, singer and songwriter when Menzel was in her car right outside the set of Glee. Over the phone while sitting in her car, Menzel gave us the insider scoop on her life and her  shows with the Houston Symphony this weekend (Menzel performs with the Symphony Friday, Saturday and Sunday night).

CultureMap: I can imagine that performing on a theater stage is quite different from the television set of Glee. Do you have a preference? What feels more comfortable for you? 

Idina Menzel: Technically there are a lot of differences, but there is one common denominator. As an artist and performer, whether you are on stage or on set, it’s imperative that I find the willingness to expose my vulnerabilities and connect with people.

That doesn’t change regardless of wherever I happen to be performing. So I feel it as a very similar experience even though the surroundings are quite different.

CM: In high school, did you have a favorite musical or a memorable musical experience?

IM: I went to high school in Long Island in a district that was very supportive of the arts. We did many school plays, musicals, concerts, you name it.

In 1988, we took a trip to the Soviet Union with the special honors choir. The choir was amazing. At that age, as a junior, the opportunity to see the world, meet students our own age doing the same thing in a different culture really opened my eyes.

I now know how fortunate I was to be a part of a school system that could support such a program, that had the means to raise the needed funds to send us abroad.

CM: Very important question. Who are you wearing in Houston? 

IM: That’s a really good question (laughs) and it’s bit of a long story. There was a mistake made when I went to London just last week and all my wardrobe is stuck in customs. I usually wear this gorgeous white dress.

At this point, your guess is as good as mine. As soon as I am finished with Glee today, off I go to figure that out.

I never wear shoes on stage. So that’s not an issue.

CM: No shoes? Comfort? Afraid to fall over?

IM: (Laughs) It’s more of a comfort thing. One day my ankles were hurting after lifting the stroller, suitcases, running through the airport and thought to myself, there is no way I am putting those 3-inch platform heels on. So I didn’t.

It was the best show I had performed. I felt grounded, more like myself. It’s more about have the freedom to just be me out there, and that means being comfortable.

CM: And the hair? I mean, look at you. It’s amazing. 

IM: My hair (laughs)? Gosh, I don’t have many tricks. I am lucky I had the time to shower two days in a row. I don’t feel very glamorous right now. My hormones are all screwed up from having a baby. My hair doesn’t know what it’s doing most of the time.

CM: So, you just celebrated the big 4-0 and Walker is now 2 years old. How do you balance between being a mom, a wife and a very active working performing artist. 

IM: Good question. I am learning everyday how to do it better; I struggle with finding balance everyday. As a mother, I feel empowered. I certainly can feel when I am spending too much in my career, when I need to spend more time with my husband and my child. That’s something all working women struggle with.

I feel comforted by the thought that everyday I leave the set, I do something for myself to ensure I am a better mother, a better wife. Also, performing is part of my life, it’s who I am. If I didn’t perform, I would not be the best version of myself, which translates in being a good mom.

CM: We hear you make a mean breakfast. French toast? Any other Idina Menzel signature dishes?

IM: Yes, I make really amazing French toast. I soak the bread really well in the eggs. And it’s all about the bread you use. I try not to use too much syrup, opt for agave nectar mostly. I make wicked omelets, pancakes and organic oatmeal with bananas.

Just don’t ask me to cook dinner.

CM: What are you passionate about lately?

IM: I started A Broader Way Foundation in an effort to support young people in the arts. Camp BroaderWay took 30 young inner city girls to a 10-day performing arts camp up in the Berkshire Mountains.

It wasn’t just music activities. They participated in camp fires, hikes, bunk skits, improvisation workshops and writing projects.

The students worked in a collaboration with composer Jeanine Tesori and using their ideas, they put together a beautiful original production which was performed in New York City.

I’d like the organization to grow so I can reach out more young people. I’d like more of them to have this experience and expand to Los Angeles, perhaps other cities.

CM: First time in Houston?

IM: Yes. My visit is culminating a year-and-a-half of shows. I am thrilled to stay in Houston for three nights, discover new things, see new places and meet Houston audiences. I just need to know where to go to eat.

CM: We’ll get our readers to give you restaurant suggestions.

 

Joel Luks – Culture Map Houston – October 13, 2011