Idina Kim Menzel (pron.: /ɪˈdiːnə mɛnˈzɛl/; born Mentzel on May 30, 1971) is an American actress, singer, and songwriter. She rose to prominence for her performance as Maureen Johnson in the Broadway musical Rent, a role which she reprised for the 2005 feature film adaptation. In 2004, she won the Tony Award for originating the role of Elphaba in the Broadway blockbuster Wicked. In 2014, she will be returning to Broadway in the musical If/Then. Menzel is also known for her portrayal of Shelby Corcoran on the Fox musical comedy-drama series, Glee.
Early life edit:
Menzel was born in Queens, New York. Her mother, Helene, is a therapist, and her father, Stuart Mentzel, worked as a pajama salesman. She has a younger sister, Cara. Her family is Jewish; her grandparents immigrated from Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Her family lived in New Jersey (East Brunswick, Somerset and Marlboro) from when she was in kindergarten to third grade, but she considers herself raised in Syosset, New York.
When Menzel was 15 years old, her parents divorced and she began 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 New York University prior to being cast in Jonathan Larson's rock musical Rent. She changed the spelling of her surname to Menzel to better reflect the pronunciation the Mentzel family had adopted in America. She was friends with actor Adam Pascal before they worked together in Rent.
Theater career edit:
In 1995, Menzel auditioned for Rent, which became her first professional theater job and her Broadway debut. Rent opened off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop on January 26, 1996, but it 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 losing to Ann Duquesnay for Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. Her final performance in the musical was on July 1, 1997.
Following the success of Rent, Menzel released her first solo album entitled Still I Can't Be Still on Hollywood Records, Menzel 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 with 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. Menzel received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. During her penultimate 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 her final show on January 9th. 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 which 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. During her run, she was the highest paid female performer in the West End at $30,000 per week. Menzel finished her West End run on December 30, 2006. She was succeeded by 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 12-13, 2008 alongside Kerry Ellis, Adam Pascal and Josh Groban.
In 2008, Menzel headlined the Powerhouse Theatre's reading of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's musical Nero from July 11-13, performing the role of Nero's mistress, Poppea.
On February 28th, 2013, it was announced that Menzel will officially be making her return to the Broadway stage starring as Elizabeth in the new Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey musical "If/Then". The new musical, which will be directed by Michael Greif (whom Menzel previously worked with in the original production of "Rent") will have its world premiere at the National Theater in Washington D.C. in previews on November 5th, 2013 and then open on November 24th, 2013. Following the out of tryout, the show will move on to Broadway at a Neederlander Theatre (to be announced) and begin previews on March 4, 2014 and then open on March 27th, 2014.
Film, television, recording and singing career edit:
Menzel's film roles include appearances in Just a Kiss, Kissing Jessica Stein, The Tollbooth, Water, Ask the Dust, Enchanted, and Rent, in which she and five other original cast members reprised their stage roles. As a singer, Menzel is known for her wide vocal range and her use of the 'belt' technique.
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. She also appears on Ray Charles's album Genius and Friends, which was released in 2005, on the track "I Will Be There." In 2007, she appeared on the Beowulf soundtrack singing the end credits song, "A Hero Comes Home". Also in 2007, Menzel's powerful singing voice led her to be asked to accompany the baritone British X-Factor runner-up Rhydian Roberts on his debut album, duetting on the song "What If".
Her third solo album, I Stand, was released on January 29, 2008. It includes many new songs, including the lead single, "Brave", 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. Menzel wrote many of the songs on her album.
On April 1, 2008, Menzel kicked off her 2008-2009 "I Stand" tour in support of her new album performing 4 sold out legs. The concert at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City was filmed for the PBS series "Soundstage". Menzel was joined by special guests, superstar Josh Groban and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.
On November 11, 2008, Menzel released "Hope," written by Paul Hampton, benefitting Stand Up to Cancer. On November 27, 2008, she performed "I Stand" on the M&M Candies float as part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Menzel has a recurring guest star role in the television series Glee, playing Shelby Corcoran, the coach of the rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline. When the series first premiered, Glee fans had noted a strong physical resemblance between Menzel and Lea Michele who portrays the character Rachel Berry. According to her husband, actor Taye Diggs, Menzel expressed interest in possibly guest starring as the biological mother of Rachel. The character was introduced in the April 13, 2010 episode "Hell-O", and it was revealed in the May 18, 2010 episode, "Dream On", that Shelby is, in fact, Rachel's biological mother, having answered an ad from Rachel's two gay dads looking for a 'mother' to help them have a baby. Lea Michele and Idina Menzel sing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables and "Poker Face" originally by Lady Gaga together. Menzel returned to Glee in Season 3 episode "I Am Unicorn", her role this time as a teacher causing trouble for Rachel, Quinn, Puck, and former flame Will Schuster.
On July 19, 2010, Menzel performed "Defying Gravity" and "What I Did For Love" in front of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House. The concert aired on PBS October 20, 2010.
In April 2010, Menzel returned to concert stage embarking on a tour with different symphony orchestras. Her performances included collaborations with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the North Carolina Symphony. In October 2011, Menzel returned to London to perform a one night only concert in the United Kingdom at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch conducting. Menzel's concert stop in Toronto was filmed at The Royal Conservatory of Music on November 17 and 18, 2011 for her second PBS special. She was accompanied by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch conducting and special guest Taye Diggs, Menzel's husband. Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony was released as a live CD and DVD and air on PBS in March 2012.
Menzel announced she will continue live performances in 2012. The first date she announced was July 8, 2012 at Ravinia Festival near Chicago, Illinois. She made her Carnegie Hall solo debut (originally on October 29, 2012). However, due to Hurricane Sandy's impact on New York City, it was postponed until January 13, 2013.
Menzel is set to tour Australia in June of 2013 with shows in South Australia, Melbourne, Brisbane and two at the famed Sydney Opera House.
Menzel is set to voice The Snow Queen in the Disney animated film Frozen, scheduled for release in 2013.
Personal life edit:
Menzel married actor Taye Diggs on January 11, 2003. They met in 1995 during the original production of Rent, in which Diggs portrayed the role of Benjamin Coffin III, the landlord. They have a son, Walker Nathaniel Diggs, born in 2009. They have a Yorkshire Terrier named Sammy Davis Jr. and two cats named Ella and Coltrane, also known as their "Jazz Cats" because they were named after jazz performers Ella Fitzgerald and John Coltrane.
Menzel was an Honorary Chair of the Imperial Court of New York's Annual Charity Coronation Ball, Night of A Thousand Gowns on March 21, 2009. Other Honorary Chairs for the evening's charity event included Elton John, Patti LuPone, John Cameron Mitchell, Joan Rivers and Robin Strasser.
On May 17, 2009, Menzel performed at a special benefit concert in Atlanta, Georgia to raise money for the Pace Academy Diversity Program in coordination with the Ron Clark Academy. The event resulted in the funding of two scholarships for Ron Clark Academy students to attend Pace Academy. The event was organized and hosted by Philip McAdoo, a former Rent cast member and current Diversity Program Director at Pace Academy.
In 2010, Menzel founded the A BroaderWay Foundation with husband Taye Diggs as a means of supporting young people in the arts. A BroaderWay sponsors camp programs, theater workshops, innovative educational programming and offers scholarships and opportunities to experience professional performances. In Summer 2011, Camp BroaderWay welcomed young girls from under-served metro New York communities to a 10-day performing arts camp, run by Menzel and a team of acclaimed professional Broadway artists including Taye Diggs. During this camp the girls collaborated with Broadway artists to write an original musical that was performed at a theatre in New York. The camp was held at Belvoir Terrace Summer Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Menzel has long-championed LGBT rights by partnering with organizations like The Trevor Project, the Give A Damn Campaign (filming a public service announcement and designing a T-shirt) and the NOH8 Campaign, posing for one of their trademark duct taped silence photos.
Theatre, film and television credits edit:
Notes and awards
Original Broadway Cast,
New York Theatre Workshop (January 26 - March 31, 1996),
Nederlander Theatre (April 29, 1996 - July 1, 1997),
Nominated - 1996 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical,
Wild Party, TheThe Wild Party
Performances: Manhattan Theatre Club Stage I (February 24 - April 9, 2000),
Nominated - 2000 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical,
Summer of '42
Performances: The Norma Terris Theatre (August 10 - September 3, 2000),
Performances: New York City Center - (May 3 - 7, 2001),
Replacement Broadway Cast,
Performances: Palace Theatre (September 13, 2001 - January 27, 2002),
Vagina Monologues, TheThe Vagina Monologues
Performances: Westside Theatre (Downstairs) (March 5 - April 14, 2002),
Funny Girl (concert)
Performances: New Amsterdam Theatre (September 23, 2002),
Performed "Cornet Man",
Original Broadway Cast,
Performances: George Gershwin Theatre (October 8, 2003 - January 8, 2005),
Won - Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical,
Won - Broadway.com Audience Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical,
Won - Broadway.com Audience Award for Best Diva Performance,
Won - Broadway.com Audience Award for Best Onstage Pair (with Kristin Chenoweth),
Nominated - Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical,
Nominated - Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical,
Nominated - Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance,
See What I Wanna See
The Wife (Lily) /,
The Actress (Deanna)
Performances: The Public Theater (October 30 - December 4, 2005),
Nominated - Drama Desk Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical,
Nominated - Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance,
Original London West End cast,
Performances: Apollo Victoria Theatre (September 7 - December 30, 2006),
Won - WhatsOnStage.com Theatregoers Choice Award for Best Actress in a Musical,
Chess in Concert (concert)
Performances: Royal Albert Hall (May 12 - 13, 2008),
Performances: Powerhouse Theatre (July 11 - 13, 2008),
Kissing Jessica Stein
Just a Kiss
Tollbooth, TheThe Tollbooth
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
Ask the Dust
ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway
Recorded her own rendition of "Lullaby of Broadway" for the end credits
Elsa, the Snow Queen
Hercules: The Animated Series
Special guest star (seasons 1-4); 11 episodes (to date)
The Queen of Hearts
1 episode, Adventures in Wonderland, special guest star
The Glee Project
Season 1 episode 2: "Theatricality"