Theatre attracts many star names to its stage, but it also breeds them. One of our biggest West End leading men is Ramin Karimloo, star of Phantom and Love Never Dies. Having pretty much conquered the West End, Karimloo is now about to take on the music industry with his first album from the established Sony record label and also takes on his first leading film role later this year. Karimloo is one of those special talents who is breaking beyond the boundaries of the stage; he’s not the first one to do so though.
Idina Menzel made her name on the boards of Broadway, but she has gone on to do much more. That’s not to detract from her theatrical accomplishments however – it would be hard to do so considering the scope of them. Her Broadway debut was in 1996 with the Jonathan Larson musical Rent, in which she played the role of Maureen Johnson. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination for ‘Best Featured Actress in a Musical’. She went on to perform in Summer of ’42, Hair, Aida, The Wild Party and The Vagina Monologues, but aside from Rent, the other role she is most synonymous with is that of Elphaba in the Stephen Schwartz/Winnie Holzman musical Wicked. Menzel originated the part of the Wicked Witch of the West in the untold story of the witches of Oz and won a Tony Award for ‘Best Leading Actress in a Musical’. She reprised the role when the West End production opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
Away from the stage, Menzel has had success on the big screen. She starred in the Robert Towne film Ask The Dust alongside Salma Hayek and Colin Farrell and was part of a stellar line-up of names in the Disney hit film Enchanted, which included Susan Sarandon, Amy Adams and Patrick Dempsey. She was also one of five original cast members of Rent who returned to their former roles for the film version. Many people will also recognise Menzel from the recurring character of Shelby Corcoran on the hit US sitcom Glee, where she plays the biological mother of Glee Club star Rachel Berry (Lea Michele).
Menzel can also add recording artist to her long list of credits having released three solo albums, the first one, Still I Can’t Be Still, back in 1998. She followed that one up with Here in 2004, and I Stand in 2008, for which she wrote many of the tracks herself. She has toured extensively with live performances of her albums and special one night only concerts – UK fans had the opportunity to see Menzel perform live at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2011. She recently announced that she will continue touring this year.
One of her concert tour dates was filmed last year in Toronto and a CD and DVD version of that live recording goes on sale today. Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony saw her perform with special guest Taye Diggs (who she is married to), accompanied by the 52-piece Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Marvin Hamlish. Her performance included classic songs from well known musicals, such as For Good, Funny Girl/Don’t Rain On My Parade and, of course, Defying Gravity. She also sung the number she duetted with Michele for on Glee, the Lady Gaga hit Poker Face. Eleven tracks appear on the live album, with four more added to the DVD version: I’m Not That Girl, Look To The Rainbow, Good Morning Walked/ I Feel Smoochie and The Way We Were.
Idina Menzel is a true star in every sense of the word. Her powerful voice is still as mesmerising to listen to as it ever was and her appeal shows no signs of waning either. If you are a fan of Idina Menzel – and if you’re not then you should be – then today is sure to be a good day for you.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Monday 6th March 2012