Tag Archives: Idina Menzel

Taye Diggs brings star power to Oct. 1 AIDS Walk

Continue reading Taye Diggs brings star power to Oct. 1 AIDS Walk

Lady Gaga to sing anthem at Super Bowl

Lady Gaga is set to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

Tony-winning actress and “Let It Go” singer Idina Menzel sang the national anthem at last year’s Super Bowl.

The NFL told The Associated Press on Feb. 2 that Gaga will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, where the Carolina Panthers will take on the Denver Broncos.

Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin will perform in American Sign Language during the national anthem.

Super Bowl 50 will air on CBS, and halftime show performers include Coldplay and Beyonce.

Gaga’s upcoming performance during the Super Bowl is another notch in her belt: She won a Golden Globe for her role in “American Horror Story: Hotel” last month and she’s nominated for best original song at the Academy Awards on Feb. 28 with “Til It Happens to You,” the song she wrote with Diane Warren for the sexual assault documentary, “The Hunting Ground.”

The song also is nominated for a Grammy at the Feb. 15 awards show, where Gaga will pay tribute to David Bowie with a performance.

Last year, Gaga wowed audiences at the Oscars when she paid tribute to “The Sound of Music” with a show-stopping performance. She won her sixth Grammy for her collaborative jazz album with Tony Bennett, and she was named woman of the year by Billboard.

On the Web

The Super Bowl 50 site.

‘Wicked’ headed to the big screen

Hollywood publications are reporting that director Stephen Daldry, who directed Billy Elliot on film and stage, will direct a movie adaptation of the smash hit musical play Wicked.

Marc Platt, who produced the show on Broadway and is also a producer on Disney’s film version of Into the Woods, is reportedly aiming for a 2016 release date. But Platt told Film Divider that he and the movie’s other creators will take their time to get the film right.

“Audiences enjoy that show so much that we are intending to move forward on the movie but aren’t going to do so until we’re satisfied in the material we have as a screenplay, and that the film will be every bit as satisfying as what we have on the stage,” he said/

In addition to its phenomenal success on Broadway, Wicked, which is especially popular with teenage girls and young women, played on stage for several years in Chicago and has drawn sold-out crowds to its national tours.

Platt said Winnie Holzman (My So-Called Life), who wrote the book for the Broadway show Wicked, is also working on the screenplay. The play’s music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz.

Neil Patrick Harris and Sting to perform at Tonys

Neil Patrick Harris, Sting, Idina Menzel, Alan Cumming and Sutton Foster — as well as the teaming up of Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight and Fantasia — will perform at the Tony Awards on June 8.

Producers announced a music-heavy lineup that includes all the best new musical nominees — “Aladdin,” “After Midnight,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” — and some overlooked ones, including “Bullets Over Broadway,” “Rocky” and “If/Then.” Three revivals — “Les Miserables,” “Violet” and Cumming’s “Cabaret” — will also be featured.

Sting will perform a song from his Broadway-bound musical, “The Last Ship.”

Harris, in the past a winning host, will return to sing a song from his “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” in which he plays a German male transsexual rock singer. He together with a lascivious and edgy Cumming as “Cabaret” emcee may add some spice to the night.

The Tony Awards will be broadcast from Radio City Music Hall on CBS. Hugh Jackman will host.

How Idina Menzel’s star keeps rising

Being dropped by her record label was one of the best things that ever happened to Broadway star Idina Menzel. The experience was painful at the time, but it empowered the performer to redirect her energy to the stage, where she’s achieved an enviable career as both a singer and an actor.

“I had just finished ‘Rent’ and thought I was going to be a big rock star,” says the singer/songwriter, who earned a Tony Award nomination for her performance as the revolutionary Maureen Johnson in the groundbreaking show. “After just one album, Hollywood Records dropped me.”

The move forced Menzel, who turned 41 on May 30, to reexamine her career. After a few fallow years, she found her way back to Broadway and to her 2003 Tony Award-winning role as the green-skinned Elphaba in “Wicked.”

“I learned that I loved the theater and I always feel good about coming back,” she says. “I feel I belong there.”

“Defying Gravity,” Menzel’s breakout number from the Stephen Schwartz-Winnie Holzman show, will no doubt be part of the song list June 20, when the celebrated performer brings her “Barefoot at the Symphony” show to Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Menzel has performed the mix of pop songs and show tunes numerous times, often with composer/conductor Marvin Hamlisch at the helm. In March, she released both a CD and DVD of the performance that was recorded at Toronto’s Koerner Hall.

“The Milwaukee show will be the result of a year-and-a- half of concertizing,” Menzel says. “There will be a lot of new material, but I’m still barefoot. I really can’t stand singing in high heels.” Menzel may well have been barefoot when she first started singing as a little girl on her native Long Island, N.Y. At 15 she got her first “professional” job as a wedding singer and worked her way through New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts by singing at weddings and bar mitzvahs.

“After graduation, a friend helped me audition for ‘Rent’ and I got the job almost as a fluke,” Menzel says.

Composer Jonathan Larson’s rock adaptation of Puccini’s “La Boheme” opened off Broadway on Jan. 26, 1996. Larson died the day before of an aortic dissection caused by undiagnosed Marfan Syndrome. Posthumously, he won both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for the hit musical.

Larson’s death profoundly affected the cast of “Rent,” Menzel says, helping to create a strong work ethic among the performers.

“Jonathan’s passing kept us all very grounded,” says Menzel, who ended up marrying “Rent” costar Taye Diggs. “The work ethic was incredible because we had to be true to his vision.”

Her work ethic drove Menzel to a high level of versatility as a performer, making it difficult for producers to categorize and market her. Her return to the stage opposite Kristen Chenowith in “Wicked” helped cement her identity, both as a performer and as a woman.

“Elphaba has given me a higher profile and I love playing her,” Menzel says. “As women, we’re often afraid of our own power and fear alienating people. The character mirrors that aspect, harnesses it and turns it into something beautiful.”

Elphaba is one of Menzel’s favorite characters, but so is Vera, the alcoholic, codependent character she played in

“Ask the Dust,” which she describes as “the best movie you’ve never seen.”

“Vera is the opposite of Elphaba – she’s a mess,” says Menzel, who acted opposite Colin Farrell in the Robert Towne film. “I like her because I am known for playing empowered women, so it was nice to explore that balance. I found my confidence as an actor in that role.”

Menzel’s best-known role may be that of Shelby Corcoran, the driven coach of Vocal Adrenaline on the hit FOX television show “Glee.” Her experience on the program has been unlike most Hollywood productions, she said.

“It was a wonderful experience and great to be surrounded by so many talented people in one place – just like in New York,” she said. “The show is groundbreaking and courageous in the issues it tackles and is giving a new generation of young people a chance to be themselves.”

Such empowerment is part and parcel of Menzel’s career, one that’s been inspired, like those of so many of her contemporaries, by the music of Barbra Streisand. “I was inspired by Barbra’s incredible range, her breath control, and especially her emotional grasp of her material,” Menzel says.            “ ‘A Star is Born’ was the first record album I ever owned.”

She’s lived up to the title.

On stage

Idina Menzel’s “Barefoot at the Symphony” tour stops in Uihlein Hall at Milwaukee’s Marcus Center for the Performing Arts on June 20. Details: www.marcuscenter.org.

Dialing for divas

Idina Menzel

Idina Menzel is one of those larger-than-life performers whose brilliance can’t really be captured in a recording studio. But you can hear her shine on the live “Chess in Concert” CD and especially on her new disc “Live: Barefoot at the Symphony.” Intended as a companion to her live DVD, the disc covers virtually all the bases, including songs from “Rent” and “Wicked.” A born storyteller, Menzel regales the audience with personal anecdotes about Barbra Streisand, appearing on “Glee” and falling in love with a gay drama teacher.

Liza Minnelli

Like Idina Menzel, with whom she shares much in common, Liza Minnelli recently released a live disc. Part of the “Legends of Broadway” series, Minnelli’s “Live at the Winter Garden” isn’t on par with the celebrated “Liza with a Z” album. It does, however, possess a pleasing pleasantness. Patter songs, such as “And I in my Chair” and the politically incorrect “Exactly Like Me,” and such covers as “Quiet Thing” and Stevie Wonder’s “You and I” make the disc recommended for hardcore and casual fans alike.

“End of the Rainbow”

In the show “End of the Rainbow,” British actress Tracie Bennett portrayed Liza’s mother Judy Garland on London’s West End – and now on Broadway – to great acclaim. The 12-track cast recording “Tracie Bennett Sings Judy: Songs from the Broadway production ‘End of the rainbow’ and other Garland Classics” features such Garland standards as “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “The Man That Got Away,” “Zing Went the Strings of my Heart” and “Get Happy.”


Still shameless and somewhat out of touch after all these years, Madonna follows up the worst album of her career (“Hard Candy”) with one that isn’t much better. The drug that Madonna’s “MDNA” most closely resembles is Milk of Magnesia. Clearly, Madonna is in desperate need of new songwriting partners – just listen to the embarrassing “I’m Addicted” and then book the Material Mom into Hazelden. She could also use a decent therapist (check out the vitriol and violence on “Gang Bang” and “I Don’t Give A”). Mostly derivative (“Give me All            Your Luvin’ ”) and dull (“Superstar”), “MDNA” tries to redeem itself with “I’m a Sinner” and “Falling Free.”

Katy Perry

We have Madonna to blame for train wrecks such as Katy Perry. Madonna gave a whole generation of teenile performers of questionable talents (hello, Britney!) permission to strut their limited stuff. On the expanded reissue of her mega-bestselling sophomore spin “Teenage Dream,” Perry trades in the faux-pink pre-fab rock snarl of her ridiculously popular debut disc and aims her sites on Lady Gaga’s dance diva crown. A little long in the tooth to be anyone’s “teenage dream,” Perry does her best Ke$ha (remember her?) on “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.).” “California Gurls,” featuring Snoop Dogg (why?), is a gooey concoction, and “Peacock” never takes wing. “The One That Got Away,” yet another cookie-cutter Max Martin composition, and the squirm-worthy “Hummingbird Heartbeat” don’t help. But the album’s centerpiece “Circle the Drain” is a knockout, and “Not Like the Movies” does reel in listeners. Only the acoustic version “Part of Me” qualifies as a bonus among the bonus tracks.


Rihanna sharpened her focus on the dance floor with her “Talk That Talk” (def Jam) disc. High energy tracks such as “We Found Love” (featuring Calvin Harris) and “Where Have You Been” raised her stock among the dance club queens. But are we any closer to figuring out who this publicity monger really is? Is she a sleazy sex kitten (“Cockiness,” “Birthday Cake”) or a tear-jerking rock diva (“Farewell,” “We All Want Love”)? And does anyone really care?