At last night’s Super Bowl, Idina Menzel totally took our breath away with her powerful a cappella performance of the National Anthem. It was a MOMENT.
Known for her powerhouse vocals, Menzel claimed mega-fame with the Academy Award-winning song “Let it Go” from Disney’s feature motion picture Frozen. (Maybe you’ve heard of it?) But Menzel has been around long before “Frozen,” I grew up listening to her songs in the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson (in which she played Maureen Johnson). I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to see her originate the role of Elphaba Thropp in the hit musical Wicked, and since then I’ve been obsessed. Though in middle school, most people had no idea who I was talking about when I mentioned her name, now everyone knows exactly who I’m talking about. But for those who just got in the game with her performance last night, here’s a look back at some of her other stellar vocal moments.
Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in the hit musical Wicked by Stephen Schwartz. When Wicked first appeared on the scene, the theater community expected it to fail. However, it has now become the most popular Broadway musical playing in hundreds of cities around the world. The play is about the wicked witch of the west Elphaba before she became wicked. Menzel won a Tony Award in the role, and also played a limited run in London’s West End production. Fun fact: Elphaba’s name came from the initials of The Wizard of Oz’s author (L. Frank Baum.) Stop everything and listen to her singing “Defying Gravity.”
One of her other popular roles for theater fans is Maureen Johnson in the musical Rent by Jonathan Larson. The musical, written in the 1990s, follows a group of Bohemian artists living in a gritty New York City. The character of Maureen is an eccentric introduced as Mark Cohen’s (Anthony Rapp) ex-girlfriend. She leaves him for Joanne Jefferson, an Ivy League graduate with influential political parents. Maureen is an activist, and is determined to shine a light on the treatment of homeless people in New York City. Menzel was nominated for a Tony Award for the role, and rightfully so. Check out her performance of “Seasons of Love.”
The Wild Party
Menzel killed it as Kate in The Wild Party. The show, written by Andrew Lippa, featured a series of vaudeville sketches and was based off of the 1928 poem by Joseph Moncure March of the same name. The Wild Party featured several Broadway all-stars including Julia Murney (Queenie), Brian D’Arcy James (Burrs), Taye Diggs (Mr. Black). Feast your ears on Menzel singing one of the featured songs in the show, “The Life of the Party.”
Most recently, Menzel starred in If/Then, an original musical written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the duo behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal. If/Then follows Menzel’s character, Elizabeth Vaughan, who moves to New York City to start her life over. It is centered around one choice Elizabeth makes in the beginning of the show, and follows the outcomes of each possible decision. Directed by Rent’s Michael Greif, and co-starring another Rent veteran, Anthony Rapp, it’s playing at the Richard Rodgers Theater until March 22nd. The original Broadway soundtrack was one of the highest-ranked Broadway soundtracks since Rent. Here’s one reason: Menzel’s rendition of “Always Starting Over”
This story was written by Elise Nicole.