— The singer and actress will perform with the Philadelphia Orchestra on June 30.
Tony Award-winning actress, singer and songwriter Idina Menzel will join the Philadelphia Orchestra on stage in a performance at the Mann Center on June 30.
Best known for her work in the original stage production of Rent, her award-wining performance originating the role of Elphaba, the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West in Wicked, and her recurring role as Shelby Corcoran in the television series Glee, Menzel currently is crisscrossing the country, headlining concerts with world-renowned symphony orchestras.
But Menzel, 41, said she was hesitant to do so at first. “I’ve toured a lot in my life with different bands and different styles of music, but I stayed away from orchestras and symphonies for a long time because I like to have a real intimacy with my audience. But then I discovered that there’s a way to work with 80 musicians and make it feel like we’ve all known each other for years.”
A lifelong Barbra Streisand fan, Menzel said that the first album she ever owned was the soundtrack for A Star is Born. “I used to sit in my room and play her album over and over again. I’d try to hit the same notes and hold them for as long as she did. At some point, I even pretended to be her.”
And in those days, pretending was about all Menzel could do because, even with an undying desire to be a performer, her mother was dead set against it.
“I was always singing, but my mother wouldn’t let me do anything professionally. She insisted I stay in school and have as normal a childhood as possible. So I was in lots of school plays and did a lot of cool things, but I had tunnel vision, in a way, and I regret that now as an adult,” Menzel explained.
“Looking back, I wish I would have studied more and enriched my life more so that I could have been a better artist. I wish I had been something like a literary major or something like that so that I might have turned out to be a better songwriter,” she said.
When she was 15, her parents divorced and Menzel began working as a wedding and bar mitzvah singer, a job that she continued throughout her time at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. She earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in drama prior to being cast in the rock musical Rent, which was her first professional theater job and her Broadway debut.
Many other groundbreaking roles followed, but it wasn’t until she appeared on Broadway in Wicked and won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical that her star quality began to rise.
Over the years, she’s had film roles as well as other stage work. Music from her latest CD, Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, will feature prominently during her performance at the Mann.
Menzel admitted that traveling in a tour bus can add to the stress of touring, but maybe not as much as traveling in the company of her almost 3-year-old son. She said, “Combining my career with motherhood means a lot of struggling. But it’s surprising how wonderful a mother I think I’ve become. Being with him so much has given me a greater perspective and taken a lot of expectations off my shoulders, realizing one can only do so much.”
Still, there’s a lot more Menzel wants to do. Along with her husband, Taye Diggs, her work continues with A BroaderWay, the foundation she established with Diggs in 2010 to help inner-city girls find outlets for self-expression through arts-related programs.
“But I would say my biggest project right now is trying to be a really great mom and learning how to balance family and career. I think I’m succeeding. At least, I’m doing my best.”
For times and ticket information, call 215-546-7900.