Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel

Idina Kim Menzel (born May 30, 1971) is an American Tony Award winning actress, singer and songwriter who achieved fame for her performances as Maureen Johnson in the Broadway and film versions of Rent and Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, in the musical Wicked.

Biography

Early life

Menzel was born in Long Island, New York as Idina Kim Mentzel, of Jewish heritage. Her mother, Helene, is a therapist, and her father, Stuart Mentzel, worked as a pajama salesman. She was raised in Syosset, New York with her younger sister Cara and later changed her surname (Mentzel) because of constant mispronunciation. When Menzel was 15 years old, her parents divorced and she started working as a wedding and bar mitzvah singer, a job which she continued throughout her time at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. She earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree in Drama at NYU prior to being cast in Jonathan Larson's rock musical Rent. She was friends with actor Adam Pascal before they worked together in Rent.

Theatre career

In 1995, Menzel auditioned for Rent, which became her first professional theater job and her Broadway debut. After Rent opened off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop on January 26, 1996, it was moved to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre due to its popularity. For her performance as Maureen Johnson in the original cast of the musical, Menzel received a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She completed her last performance on July 1, 1997.

Following the success of Rent, Idina Released her first solo album entitled "Still I Can't Be Still" on "HollyWood Records", Idina also originated the role of Dorothy in Summer of ’42 at Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, starred as Sheila in the New York City Center Encores! production of Hair and appeared on Broadway as Amneris in Aida. Menzel earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for her performance as Kate in the Manhattan Theatre Club's 2000 off-Broadway production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party. Her other off-Broadway credits include the pre-Broadway run of Rent and The Vagina Monologues.

In 2003, Menzel starred alongside fellow actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway in Wicked, a musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman based upon the popular 1995 Gregory Maguire novel. Idina received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. On her second to last performance of Wicked on January 8, 2005, she fell through a trap door and cracked a lower rib. The injury prevented her from performing in the January 9 show. Menzel did, however, make a special out-of-costume appearance at that performance, performed her final song, and received a 5 minute long standing ovation. Menzel was replaced by Elphaba standby Shoshana Bean.

Following Wicked, Menzel appeared off-Broadway in the Public Theater's production of See What I Wanna See, a Michael John LaChiusa-penned musical whose run ended in December 2005. For her role as various characters, she received Drama Desk Award and Drama League Award nominations. She reprised her Tony Award-winning role as Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked when it opened at London's Apollo Victoria Theater on September 7, 2006. Menzel finished her run on December 30, 2006. Menzel was then succeeded by fellow Elphaba standby Kerry Ellis.

Menzel played the role of Florence in the 21st Anniversary concert of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall, London from May 12, 2008 through May 13, 2008.

In 2008, Menzel headlined the Powerhouse Theatre's reading of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's musical Nero from July 11 to July 13, performing the role of Nero’s mistress Poppea.

Film and singing career

Menzel's film roles include appearances in Just a Kiss, Kissing Jessica Stein, Tollbooth, Water, Ask the Dust, Enchanted, and Rent, in which she and five other original cast members reprised their stage roles.

Menzel performed at the 1998 Lilith Fair summer concert festival and continues to write and perform original music. She has toured extensively and frequently performs in various venues throughout New York City. She produced and released her debut album, Still I Can’t Be Still, for Hollywood Records in 1998. One single from the album, "Minuet," made the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Tracks chart at #48 in October 1998.

Her second album, Here, was released independently by Zel Records in 2004. Menzel has contributed to soundtracks, including those for the film The Other Sister and the ABC television dramedy Desperate Housewives. In 2007, she appeared on the Beowulf soundtrack singing the end credits song, "A Hero Comes Home".

Singer Ray Charles invited Menzel to duet with him on one of the tracks of his album Genius & Friends. The tracks were recorded in 1998 but were never produced, and it was one of his dying wishes that the album be made , a wish which was fulfilled posthumously.

Menzel has appeared on the cast recordings of Rent and Wicked, two of the best-selling cast recordings of all time, as well as the recordings of Lippa's The Wild Party, LaChiusa's See What I Wanna See, and the soundtrack of the film Rent. She recently signed a record deal with Warner Bros. Records.

A new studio version of Defying Gravity was released in May 2007 on iTunes. A remix of Defying Gravity was the "anthem" at the 2007 Gay Pride Parade and Festival in Los Angeles and that version appears on the official CD from the event. It has instantly become a collectors item.

Her third solo album, I Stand, was released on January 29, 2008. It includes many new tracks such as the lead single, "Brave" as well as the title track "I Stand" and a song released on EP, "Gorgeous". The album debuted at #58 in the Billboard 200 making it the first solo album by Menzel to make the charts. There are five versions of this album, the original version, the special limited edition, the iTunes version, the Barnes & Noble edition, and the Borders edition.

On April 1, 2008, Menzel kicked off her "I Stand" tour in support of her new album.

On September 14, 2008, Menzel performed in London's Hyde Park as part of an all-star celebration of legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's 60th birthday on September 14. Each performer sang a song or two from Webber's lengthy songbook - Menzel's performances were "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from Evita and "Unexpected Song" from Song & Dance.

Menzel is due to perform on For One Night Only, a UK variety show, on the 12th October.

Personal life

Menzel married actor Taye Diggs, her co-star from the original Broadway production of Rent, on January 11, 2003 after 7 years of dating. They have a Yorkshire Terrier named Sammy Davis, Jr. Jr., and two cats named Ella and Coltrane whom they call their "Jazz Cats" since they were named after famous jazz performers. On December 6, 2004, it was reported by the New York Post that Menzel and Diggs were threatened with harm in a series of letters because of their interracial marriage.

Work

Theatre

Start year Production Role Notes and awards
1996 Rent Maureen Johnson

2000 The Wild Party Kate

  • Performances: Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I (February 24, 2000 - April 9, 2000)
  • Nominated - 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical

Summer of '42 Dorothy

  • Performances: The Norma Terris Theatre (August 10, 2000 - September 3, 2000)

2001 Hair Sheila

  • Performances: New York City Center - (May 3, 2001 - May 7, 2001)

Aida Amneris

  • Replacement Broadway Cast
  • Performances: Palace Theatre (September 13, 2001 - January 27, 2002)

2002 The Vagina Monologues Performer

  • Performances: Westside Theatre (Downstairs) (March 5, 2002 - April 14, 2002)

Funny Girl (concert) Fanny Brice

  • Performances: New Amsterdam Theatre (September 23, 2002)
  • Performed "Cornet Man"

2003 Wicked Elphaba

2005 See What I Wanna See Kesa /
The Wife (Lily) /
The Actress (Deanna)

  • Performances: The Public Theater (October 30, 2005 - December 4, 2005)
  • Nominated - Drama Desk Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical
  • Nominated - Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance

2006 Wicked (London) Elphaba

  • Original London West End cast
  • Performances: Apollo Victoria Theatre (September 7, 2006 - December 30, 2006)
  • Won - WhatsOnStage.com Theatregoers Choice Award for Best Actress in a Musical

2008 Chess (concert) Florence

  • Performances: Royal Albert Hall (May 12, 2008 - May 13, 2008)

Nero Poppea

  • Performances: Powerhouse Theatre (July 11, 2008 - July 13, 2008)

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes and awards
2001 Kissing Jessica Stein Bridesmaid
2002 Just a Kiss Linda
2004 The Tollbooth Raquel Cohen-Flaxman
Water Jessy Turner
2005 Rent Maureen Johnson Nominated - 2005 Northeastern Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress
Nominated - 2005 Northeastern Critics Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated - 2005 Broadcast Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble
Nominated - 2005 Washington Film Critics Award for Best Ensemble
2006 Ask the Dust Vera Rivkin
2007 ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway as Herself Recorded her own rendition of "Lullaby of Broadway" for the end credits
Enchanted Nancy Tremaine

Television

Year TV series Role Notes
1998 Hercules: The Animated Series Circe Episode ("Hercules and the Song of Circe")
2004 Rescue Me Carol Episode ("Sanctuary")
2005 Kevin Hill Francine Prescott Episodes ("Losing Isn't Everything", "Sacrificial Lambs")

Discography

Studio albums

Year Title Label
1998 Still I Can't Be Still Hollywood Records
2004 Here Zel Records
2008 I Stand Warner Bros. Records

Cast recordings

Year Title Label
1996 Rent (Original Broadway Cast Recording) DreamWorks Records
2000 The Wild Party (Lippa) (Off-Broadway) RCA Victor Broadway
2003 Wicked (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Decca Records
2005 Rent (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Warner Bros. Records
2006 See What I Wanna See (2005 Original Off-Broadway Cast) Sh-K-Boom Records

Miscellaneous

Year Song Album Label
1998 "Follow If You Lead" The Other Sister (Music From The Motion Picture) Hollywood Records
2003 "How Shall I See You Through My Tears", "The Want of a Nail" (Backing vocals) Camp (Music from the Motion Picture) Decca Records
"I Saw Three Ships" Broadway's Greatest Gifts: Carols for a Cure, Vol. 5 Rock-It Science Records
2005 "Damsel In Distress" Music from and Inspired by Desperate Housewives Hollywood Records
"I Will Be There" Genius & Friends Rhino Records
2007 "A Hero Comes Home" (End Credit Version) Beowulf (Music from the Motion Picture) Warner Bros. Records

References

External links

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