Menzel to perform at the Mann

Id­ina Men­zel, who is on a cross-coun­try bus tour, talks about the chal­lenges of be­ing on the road with her nearly 3-year-old son.

— 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.


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