Fittingly, the Wicked witch is heading west.
Coated in a layer of cucumber-colored makeup, Idina Menzel rode her broomstick to Tony Award glory when she portrayed Elphaba—i.e., the Wicked Witch of the West—in Wicked, cementing her place in the Broadway firmament after a run of performances that began with her acclaimed work in the original production of Rent.
While a touring version of Wicked will be Menzel-less when it arrives at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in late August—she long ago shed her pea-soup tan for flesh-tone pursuits elsewhere, including movies (Kissing Jessica Stein, the film version of Rent) and TV (Glee guest spots)—the Broadway baby performs at Reynolds Hall on June 10.
Reportedly, Menzel favors a palsy-walsy attitude on stage, her audience feeling free to toss questions and comments her way during her performance—as long as you don’t quiz her on her repertoire before she opens those golden pipes. We couldn’t—she was unavailable for an interview—but one critic at her tour stop in Buffalo, N.Y., noted that pages from the programs detailing her appearance with that city’s philharmonic orchestra were torn out so her songs would be a surprise. We hear she also actually skipped (seriously) onstage.
Following are other selected tidbits from the personal/professional files of Menzel, perhaps providing fodder for some star/audience interaction:
• Pre-fame, Menzel was a wedding/bar mitzvah singer. Ask her to sing “Hava Nagila” and select a few audience members to dance the hora. Don’t push it, though, by demanding she sing “The Hokey Pokey.”
• Co-starring in Rent on Broadway, Menzel hooked up—literally—with future husband Taye Diggs. Recalling it to Chelsea Handler during a TV interview: “We played adversaries, so we were onstage and offstage at the same time. That was very helpful. We fooled around a lot backstage in our dressing rooms. There’s lots of mirrors, so it’s cool. Now I wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. Back then I was 25, my ass was high, it was good.”
• Menzel to Handler on being with an African-American man: “If you’re dating a black man, black don’t crack, so a white Jewish woman has to get it tucked.”
• Apparently combining the Jewish and African-American vibe, they have a Yorkshire Terrier named Sammy Davis Jr. No word on whether it wears jewelry on each paw and howls along to “The Candy Man.”
• During a matinee the day before her last scheduled performance of Wicked on Broadway, Menzel fell through a trapdoor and cracked a rib. Replaced by her understudy the next day, she still appeared onstage to sing her final song in a bright red Adidas tracksuit, receiving a standing O.
• Apparently limbering up for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch, Menzel played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. In fifth grade. Shall we presume that at the time she was still too, well, green to portray the wicked witch?
• Named after her great-grandmother, Ida, Menzel’s first name translates to “gentle” in Hebrew.
• Describing her life philosophy to an interviewer, Menzel put it this way: “We have this strength inside of us, and yet we are taught to always sort of keep it down. I sort of found in my life that I’ve taken a step back and made myself smaller in order to try to fit in. And that hasn’t worked. And we have to learn to kind of embrace what makes us unique, and embrace our strength, and then if people don’t like it, fuck it.”