Idina Menzel has had one amazing career. She’s helped create three very different roles that have become global cultural phenomenons, from Maureen in Rent (both on stage and film), winning a Tony as Elphaba in Wicked, and now as the voice of Elsa in Disney’s Frozen. So why isn’t she a household name in non-Broadway-obsessed houses?
Well, unless you’re a die-hard theater nerd, you’re likely to only know the name of Menzel’s projects or roles rather than the New York native herself. Now that Menzel has officially been announced to perform Frozen‘s smash hit (and nominated) “Let It Go” at this year’s Oscars, we decided to delve deeper into Menzel’s past performances to show that she is so much more than just a frozen bohemian witch.
“Tomorrow” – Barefoot at the Symphony concert DVD
After giving birth to son Walker (with ex Taye Diggs), Menzel went on a concert tour called Barefoot at the Symphony. The show in Toronto was recorded live for a CD and DVD and a PBS airing. Though Menzel is obviously too old for the role, can you just imagine what she would have been like as little orphan Annie? I can’t either, especially with red hair, but leapin’ lizards, she can definitely sing the show’s signature tune pretty well.
“Nobody’s Side” – Chess concert DVD
Menzel played the American Florence in this starry concert version of the Cold War-set musical by Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson of ABBA. The performance was filmed live in London, and the entire show, which also starred Josh Groban and Rent co-star Adam Pascal, can be bought on DVD or CD. I obviously have both.
“My Strongest Suit” – Aida
This performance holds a personal place in my heart since it was the first time I had seen Idina perform. Menzel replaced Sherie Rene Scott as princess Amneris in the Elton John/Tim Rice musical. Ironically, Scott had replaced Menzel in Rent years earlier. In this full production number captured by a bootleg, you see a playful and seductive side of Menzel while still commanding attention in some ridiculous costumes. Just wait for her hat at the end.
“The Life of the Party” – The Wild Party
I won’t say too much about this performance from the Off Broadway musical by Andrew Lippa. Let’s just say Frozen fans should skip this one.
“Awake” – duet with Josh Groban
Menzel shows her range with a beautiful duet with her Chess co-star Groban.
“What I Did For Love” – In Performance at the White House: A Broadway Celebration
Having the first family in the front row or the late legendary composer Marvin Hamlisch at the piano doesn’t distract Menzel in this performance of the A Chorus Line classic at an event in the White House.
“See What I Wanna See” – See What I Wanna See
Not only does Menzel belt her face off in the title tune from this little Off Broadway musical, she also perfects the art of scarf-ography.
“Don’t Rain On My Parade” – Kennedy Center Honors
Menzel has admitted in the past to being Barbra Steisand’s biggest fan. Now she actually got to sing that directly to her while honoring the legend at the Kennedy Center Honors in 2008.
“Poker Face” – Barefoot at the Symphony
Again from her concert DVD, Menzel sings the Lady Gaga tune that she first performed on Glee with Lea Michele. Menzel tells a funny story in the middle of the performance about being asked to play the mother of a 25-year-old and highlighted some of the irony to the lyrics in the song when sung in the context of the Fox show.
BONUS – 2004 Tony acceptance speech
It’s been almost 10 years since Menzel won the Best Actress in a Musical Tony award for Wicked. Many were initially surprised that Menzel won over Tonya Pickens from Caroline, or Change, including Menzel herself. Take a look back at her emotional acceptance speech.