Idina Menzel is one of the most successful Broadway stars of her generation. Her dedication to music and theater and her mezzo soprano voice, often tinged with her trademark “belting” technique, has led her to be a critically acclaimed singer and actress. Menzel got her start early in life in Broadway productions and continued her singing and acting career through many theater productions, television and film and the production of several albums and a contributor on many soundtracks. Her most famous roles were in “Rent”, “Wicked” and “Frozen”, but Menzel clearly has had a prolific career over the past several decades. Her talents have helped her make a lot of money.
Early Life and Education
Idina Menzel was born Idina Kim Mentzel (she would later change her last name because that is how it’s pronounced) in New York City on May 30, 1971. She grew up in New Jersey and Long Island. She graduated from Syosset High School. When Idina was 15 years old her parents divorced. Her mother Helene was a therapist and her father Stuart was a salesman. Both parents encouraged Idina and her younger sister Cara to follow their dreams. At just 15, Idina began singing at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. She continued to do so while she was in college. Idina graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts in 1992. While in college, Idina performed around New York City and was good friends with Adam Pascal who would later appear on stage in “Rent” with her. She also made a demo of “In Your Eyes” for songwriter Jimmy Walsh. An Irish singer Niamh Kavanaugh would go on to win a Eurovision Song Contest for singing Idina and Jimmy’s version of the song.
As a born singer and performer it didn’t take long for Idina Menzel to reach success on New York City’s Broadway. Her first professional theater role was in the off Broadway production of “Rent” in 1995. The show was such a success it was moved to Broadway’s Nederlander Theater in January of 1996. Idina played the role of Maureen Johnson and was nominated for the Best Featured Actress Tony Award. After a year with “Rent”, Idina performed in “The Vagina Monologues”, “Summer of ’42”, “Hair”, and “The Wild Party”. Idina’s next big Broadway role was Elphaba, the misunderstood “Wicked Witch of the West”, in Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman’s musical “Wicked” based on the novel, “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire. Idina appeared in the production alongside Kristin Chenoweth and won critical acclaim for the role as well as a Best Lead Actress in a Musical Tony Award in 2004. The role earned Idina a huge fan base. Idina has continued to maintain a presence in theater on Broadway in New York City, the Royal Albert Theatre in London and other venues around the world.
With her amazing voice, it was not difficult for Idina Menzel to get recording contracts. Her first studio album was released in 1998 “Still I Can’t Be Still”. She would go on to release six studio albums. The latest was a Christmas Album released in 2019. Idina has released several live albums. Idina has recorded soundtracks including for the television series “Desperate Housewives” and the film “Beowulf”. She has accompanied other recording artists on their soundtracks and for songs to benefit causes that she believes in including Stand Up to Cancer. In 2010 Idina performed at a special White House concert that aired on PBS. She has performed on a float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and performed the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl. Most famously, Idina performed at an Academy Awards Ceremony where actor John Travolta mispronounced her name. She playfully played along with it even appearing the following year with Travolta as a co-presenter.
Film and Television
Soon after her breakout Broadway role in “Rent”, Idina Menzel did a voice character in 1998’s “Hercules: The Animated Series”. She guest starred on television shows including “Rescue Me” and “Private Practice”. She played minor rolls in “Kissing Jessica Stein” and “Just a Kiss” before landing supporting roles in “The Tollbooth” and “Water”. In 2005 Idina reprised her role as Maureen Johnson in the film adaptation of “Rent”. Two years later she was cast in the musical film “Enchanted” alongside Patrick Dempsey and Amy Adams. She actually didn’t sing in the role because it did not suit well to her character, but she was able to play her favorite type of role, a seemingly villain who is actually complicated. From 2010 through 2013 Idina played recurring characters on the television show “Glee”. At one point she played the coach of a rival school’s Glee Club but returned to play the biological mother of Lea Michele’s character Rachel Barry.
It’s difficult to imagine a more famous role of Idina Menzel’s than Elsa in the animated film “Frozen” which was released in 2013. Menzel’s song in the film “Let It Go” won both an Academy Award and a Grammy Award. Idina Menzel reprized her role as Elsa in the short films “Frozen Fever” and “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure”, the film “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, and of course 2019’s “Frozen II”. Idina has added to her net income voicing the character of Elsa in several video games for children. Idina and Kristen Bell, who voiced the character of Anna in “Frozen”, have performed together at various events and even received neighboring stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2011. Idina Menzel continues to act and sing. In 2017 she starred as C.C. Bloom in Lifetime TV’s remake of “Beaches”. She appears in the Ellen Degeneres produced “Happy Time” which has not yet been released. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Idina kept busy. she created “Idina’s Treehouse” on YouTube. The series of videos for kids were filmed in her Los Angeles backyard home in the treehouse built for her son. In the series, Idina sings and tells stories while family and friends make guest appearances.
There are several causes close to Idina Menzel’s heart and she supports them in anyway she can. Particularly, she cares about educating youth interested in theater and music and LGBT rights. Idina considers herself a feminist and has said that she loves to take on roles that show vulnerable women who realize their strength. She cares deeply for underprivileged youth who aspire to be successful in the theater and arts. She serves on several foundations supporting the Pace Academy Diversity Program and Ron Clark Academy. She performs benefit concerts for these groups and has served as a chairperson that helped raise money for scholarships. She and Taye Diggs founded “A Broadway Foundation” in 2010 establishing camp programs, theater workshops and educational opportunities for the underprivileged children wishing to learn about the arts. In the programs, Broadway actors, including Idina and Diggs, work directly with the children in acting workshops. Idina supports the LGBT community and causes including “Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids”.
In 2003, Idina married Taye Diggs. The two first met when they appeared in “Rent” in 1995. They welcomed their son Walker in 2009. The couple divorced in 2013 but remain good friends. Idina began dating actor Aaron Lohr, who has performed in several Disney Studio films, in 2015. They married in 2017. They live in a beautiful home in Encino, California and have residences in New York.