Menzel rose to prominence when she originated the role of Maureen Johnson in the Broadway musical Rent. Her performance earned her a Tony Award nomination in 1996. She reprised the role in the musical's 2005 film adaptation. In 2003, Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in the Broadway musical Wicked, a performance for which she won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Menzel returned to Broadway as Elizabeth Vaughan in the 2014 musical If/Then, which earned her a third Tony Award nomination.
Additionally, Menzel is known for portraying the role of Shelby Corcoran on the musical dramedy TV series Glee from 2010 to 2013 as well as portraying Nancy Tremaine in the 2007 Disney live action/animated film Enchanted and being the voice of Queen Elsa in Walt Disney Animation Studios' hit 2013 computer-animated musical film Frozen, in which she sang the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning song "Let It Go". The song reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making Menzel the first Tony Award-winning actress to reach the top 10. She ultimately won a Grammy award for the film's soundtrack. Her album Holiday Wishes was released in 2014 and reached number 6 on the Billboard 200 album chart, making it her highest charting album to date.
Idina Kim Mentzel was born on May 30, 1971. Her birthplace is varyingly reported as either Queens or Syosset. She grew up in Syosset, the daughter of Helene, a therapist, and Stuart Mentzel, a pajama salesman. She has a younger sister named Cara. Menzel's family is Jewish, and her grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe. Menzel attended Syosset High School.
When Menzel was 15 years old, her parents divorced and she began working as a wedding and bar mitzvah singer, a job which she continued throughout her time at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Drama.
Idina changed the spelling of her surname to Menzel to better reflect the pronunciation the Mentzel family had adopted in America. She was friends with actor Adam Pascal before they worked together in Rent.
In 1995, Menzel auditioned for Rent, which became her first professional theatre job and her Broadway debut. Rent opened off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop on January 26, 1996, but it moved to Broadway's Nederlander Theatre due to its popularity. For her performance as Maureen Johnson in the original cast of the musical, Menzel received a Tony nomination as Best Featured Actress in a Musical losing to Ann Duquesnay for Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk. Her final performance in the musical was on July 1, 1997.
Following the success of Rent, Menzel released her first solo album entitled Still I Can't Be Still on Hollywood Records, Menzel also originated the role of Dorothy in Summer of '42 at Goodspeed Opera House in Connecticut, starred as Sheila in the New York City Center Encores! production of Hair and appeared on Broadway as Amneris in Aida. Menzel earned a Drama Desk Award nomination for her performance as Kate in the Manhattan Theatre Club's 2000 off-Broadway production of Andrew Lippa's The Wild Party. Her other off-Broadway credits include the pre-Broadway run of Rent and The Vagina Monologues.
In 2003, Menzel starred with actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth on Broadway in Wicked, a musical by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman based upon Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (1995). Menzel received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. During her penultimate performance of Wicked on January 8, 2005, she fell through a trap door and cracked a lower rib. The injury prevented her from performing in her final show on January 9. Menzel did, however, make a special out-of-costume appearance at that performance, performed her final song, and received a five-minute standing ovation. Menzel was replaced by Elphaba standby Shoshana Bean.
Following Wicked, Menzel appeared off-Broadway in the Public Theater's production of See What I Wanna See, a Michael John LaChiusa-penned musical whose run ended in December 2005, for which she received Drama Desk Award and Drama League Award nominations. She reprised her Tony Award-winning role as Elphaba in the West End production of Wicked when it opened at London's Apollo Victoria Theatre on September 7, 2006. During her run, she was the highest paid female performer in the West End at $30,000 per week. Menzel finished her West End run on December 30, 2006. She was succeeded by Elphaba standby Kerry Ellis.
Menzel played the role of Florence in the 21st-anniversary concert of Chess at the Royal Albert Hall, London from May 12 to 13, 2008, alongside Kerry Ellis, Adam Pascal, and Josh Groban.
In 2008, Menzel headlined the Powerhouse Theatre's reading of Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik's musical Nero from July 11 to 13, performing the role of Nero's mistress, Poppea. She was joined by Glee costar Lea Michele as Claudia Octavia, Jeffrey Carleson as Nero, and Michael Arden as Octavia's brother, Brittanicus.
On February 28, 2013, it was announced that Menzel would make her return to the Broadway stage, starring as Elizabeth in the new Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey musical If/Then. The new musical, directed by Michael Greif (whom Menzel previously worked within the original production of Rent), had its world premiere at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C., starting with previews on November 5, 2013, till November 24, 2013. Following the out-of-town tryout, the show moved to the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway and began previews on March 4, 2014. It officially opened on March 30, 2014. For her performance, Menzel was nominated for her second Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, losing to Jessie Mueller for Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. If/Then closed on Broadway on March 22, 2015, after 29 previews and 401 regular performances.
Menzel reprised the role of Elizabeth (along with original Broadway cast members Lachanze, James Snyder, and Anthony Rapp) on the first seven stops of the National Tour of If/Then from October 2015-January 2016. She departed the show (along with LaChanze and Snyder) on the last day in Costa Mesa, California, on January 24, 2016. Her replacement was Jackie Burns (who previously served as Menzel's standby in the Broadway production) starting January 27, 2016, in Dallas, Texas.
Menzel performed at the 1998 Lilith Fair summer concert festival and continues to write and perform original music. She has toured extensively and frequently performs in various venues throughout New York City. She produced and released her debut album, Still I Can't Be Still, for Hollywood Records in 1998. One single from the album, "Minuet," made the Radio & Records CHR/Pop Tracks chart at number 48 in October 1998. Following the album release, she embarked on her Still I Can't Be Still Tour, but after selling fewer than 10,000 copies in the US and missing the Billboard 200, Menzel's label put the album out of print, and she was dropped from the label. However, the album was re-released once she began to rise to a greater fame with her Tony-winning performance in Wicked.
Her second album, Here, was released independently by Zel Records in 2004. Menzel contributed to the soundtrack of Desperate Housewives in 2005. She also appears on Ray Charles's album Genius and Friends, which was also released in 2005, on the track "I Will Be There." In 2007, she appeared on the Beowulf soundtrack singing the end credits song, "A Hero Comes Home." Also, in 2007, Menzel's powerful singing voice led her to be asked to accompany the baritone British X Factor runner-up Rhydian Roberts on his debut album, duetting on the song "What If".
Her third solo album, I Stand, was released on January 29, 2008. It includes many new songs, including the lead single, "Brave", the title track "I Stand," and a song released on EP, "Gorgeous." The album debuted at number 58 on the Billboard 200, making it the first solo album by Menzel to make the charts. There are five versions of this album: the original version, the special limited edition, the iTunes version, the Barnes & Noble edition, and the Borders edition. Menzel wrote many of the songs on her album.
On April 1, 2008, Menzel kicked off her 2008–2009 I Stand tour in support of her new album performing four sold-out legs. The concert at Rose Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City was filmed for the PBS television series Soundstage. Menzel was joined by special guests, superstar Josh Groban and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.
On November 11, 2008, Menzel released "Hope," written by Paul Hampton, benefitting Stand Up to Cancer. On November 27, 2008, she performed "I Stand" on the M&M Candies float as part of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
On July 19, 2010, Menzel performed "Defying Gravity" and "What I Did For Love" in front of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at A Broadway Celebration: In Performance at the White House. The concert aired on PBS October 20, 2010.
In April 2010, Menzel returned to concert stage embarking on her "Barefoot at the Symphony Tour" in which she was accompanied by major symphony orchestras. Her performances included collaborations with the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the North Carolina Symphony, and featured symphonic arrangements by New York composer and producer Rob Mounsey. In October 2011, Menzel returned to London to perform a one-night-only concert in the United Kingdom at the Royal Albert Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch conducting. Menzel's concert stop in Toronto was filmed at The Royal Conservatory of Music on November 17 and 18, 2011, for her second PBS special. She was accompanied by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony with Marvin Hamlisch conducting and special guest Taye Diggs, Menzel's husband. Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony was released as a live CD and DVD and aired on PBS in March 2012, with Musical Director Rob Mounsey producing. BWW. "Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony to Premiere on Chicago's PBS January 9; March 3 Nationwide". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved February 4, 2015.
Menzel announced she would continue live performances in 2012. The first date she announced was July 8, 2012, at Ravinia Festival near Chicago, Illinois. She made her Carnegie Hall solo debut (originally on October 29, 2012). However, due to Hurricane Sandy's impact on New York City, it was postponed until January 13, 2013.
Menzel toured Australia in June 2013 with shows in South Australia, Melbourne, Brisbane, and two at the Sydney Opera House.
On June 17, 2014, during a concert at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, Menzel confirmed that she was working on a Christmas album that would contain original material to be released later that same year. In that concert, she performed one of the original tunes from the album, "December Prayer". The album, Holiday Wishes, was released on October 14, 2014. The album has so far peaked at number 10 on the Billboard 200, becoming her highest charting album as a solo lead artist. Holiday Wishes also marked the first that a woman had three different albums (the cast recording to Frozen and If/Then) peak within the top 20 within 10 months of the release date. Holiday Wishes also become the second ever Christmas to chart before Halloween during the SoundScan Era after Garth Brooks's 1992 album Beyond the Season. On November 26, 2014, Menzel announced through her Facebook page that she would be touring during the summer of 2015. This is her first global tour and first time playing shows in Europe and Asia.
Menzel was honoured with the Breakthrough Artist award at the 2014 Billboard Women in Music awards ceremony.
Menzel sang the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015, at University of Phoenix Stadium.
On August 5, 2016, Menzel announced she would release her eponymous fifth album, on September 23. Of the release, Menzel stated: "I poured my heart out and used my music as a place to kind of figure some things out. It’s a really personal album."
After minor roles in Kissing Jessica Stein and Just a Kiss, Menzel had supporting roles in The Tollbooth and Water in 2004. Her first major role in a major film was in 2005 when she reprised her role of Maureen Johnson in the film adaptation of Rent. She was nominated for several critics circle awards for the part. In 2007, she played Nancy Tremaine in the film Enchanted.
Menzel had a recurring guest star role in the television series Glee playing Shelby Corcoran, the coach of the rival glee club Vocal Adrenaline. When the series first premiered, Glee fans (known collectively as 'Gleeks') had noted a strong physical resemblance between Menzel and Lea Michele who portrays the character of Rachel Berry. According to her then-husband, actor Taye Diggs, Menzel had expressed interest in possibly guest starring as the biological mother of Rachel. The character was introduced in the episode "Hell-O". Lea Michele and Idina Menzel sing together "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables and "Poker Face" originally by Lady Gaga. Menzel returned to Glee in season 3 episode "I Am Unicorn", her role this time as a teacher causing trouble for Rachel, Quinn, Puck, and former flame Will Schuster.
In 2013, Menzel starred as Elsa in the computer-animated musical film Frozen. Menzel's performance received praise from film critics. The film became the highest grossing animated film of all time, and one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Menzel gained particular notice for her song Let It Go, which won an Academy Award and a Grammy Award and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Menzel herself won a Grammy Award for the film's soundtrack. She is also featured in the song "For the First Time in Forever" and its reprise. She has since reprised her role of Elsa in multiple video games , the 2015 short film Frozen Fever and the 2017 featurette short film Olaf's Frozen Adventure, and will reprise it again for Frozen 2.
Menzel was invited to perform "Let It Go" at the 86th Academy Awards in March 2014, where the song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. When John Travolta announced her before she sang the song, he incorrectly introduced her as Adele Dazeem. The slip-up became a popular Internet meme. According to a source for E!, Menzel was not upset about the mishap. In response to the misnaming, she reportedly printed up satirical playbills that promoted her name as Adele Dazeem, noting her past work in Nert (Rent), Wicked-ly (Wicked) and Farfignugen (a play on the word Fahrvergnügen, referring to Frozen). Three days after the ceremony, Travolta publicly apologized to Menzel for mispronouncing her name. At the 87th Academy Awards, Menzel presented the award for Best Original Song alongside Travolta where she jokingly introduced him as Glom Gazingo. Travolta then finally pronounced her name correctly when he appeared on stage.
Menzel stars as C.C. in the Lifetime TV movie remake of the film Beaches, scheduled for broadcast on January 21, 2017.
She is also set to star on the Ellen DeGeneres–produced sitcom Happy Time.
Menzel is usually classified as a mezzo-soprano. Writing for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sharon Eberson wrote, "Possessing a voice that could be categorized as coquettish to flat-out belter and everything in between—and with a stage presence to match—she usually is labeled a mezzo-soprano. But why pigeonhole someone so intriguingly offbeat? Ms. Menzel interprets songs as much as an actress as a singer, and therein lies her connection to the music and her fans." Describing Menzel as a loud, "full-volume soprano" similar to Broadway actress Ethel Merman, Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote of Menzel's voice, "The sound she creates when she belts in her high soprano register is a primal cry embedded in her being that insists that we listen and pay attention." Holden continued, "Depending on the song, [her voice] can sound babyish and demanding, or it can sound grand and imperial."
Describing Menzel as a singer with a "husky voice, which sometimes veers toward shrieking until she effortlessly reins herself in or, amazingly, kicks it up another notch," Melissa Ruggieri of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution concluded that she possesses "a superior instrument" both in studio and live. On her own vocal technique, Menzel revealed that she prefers to avoid moving her shoulders while singing, telling The Philippine Star, "I actually try to take a smaller breath for a bigger, longer note because there's less air that will come pummeling out." Professionally trained as a classical singer from age eight, Menzel decided to pursue other genres, specifically R&B and jazz when she entered high school. Upon becoming a wedding singer, Menzel was eventually exposed to a wide variety of genres, ranging from jazz and rock to Motown.
Menzel married actor Taye Diggs on January 11, 2003. They met in 1995 during the original production of Rent, in which Diggs portrayed the role of Benjamin Coffin III, the landlord. On September 2, 2009, she gave birth to their son, Walker Nathaniel Diggs. In late 2013, it was reported that Menzel and Diggs had separated after ten years of marriage. Their divorce was finalized on December 3, 2014. Her cousin is film critic Scott Menzel.
Menzel began dating actor Aaron Lohr and they appeared together in April 2015 at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. In August 2015, Menzel and Lohr bought a home located in Encino, Los Angeles, California. They both starred in the 2005 film adaptation of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway musical Rent as well as the Off-Broadway musical See What I Wanna See. On September 23, 2016, Menzel announced that she is engaged to Lohr, via her Twitter account.
Menzel identifies as a feminist, saying "I love that I play all of these strong women. But they’re not just strong— they’re women who have a really deep vulnerability and need to go through a journey in order to harness their power."
Menzel was an honorary chair of the Imperial Court of New York's Annual Charity Coronation Ball, Night of A Thousand Gowns on March 21, 2009. Other honorary chairs for the evening's charity event included Elton John, Patti LuPone, John Cameron Mitchell, Joan Rivers, and Robin Strasser.
On May 17, 2009, Menzel performed at a special benefit concert in Atlanta, Georgia to raise money for the Pace Academy Diversity Program in coordination with the Ron Clark Academy. The event resulted in the funding of two scholarships for Ron Clark Academy students to attend Pace Academy. The event was organized and hosted by Philip McAdoo, a former Rent cast member and current Diversity Program Director at Pace Academy.
In 2010, Menzel founded the A BroaderWay Foundation with then-husband Taye Diggs as a means of supporting young people in the arts. A BroaderWay sponsors camp programs, theater workshops, innovative educational programming and offers scholarships and opportunities to experience professional performances. In Summer 2011, Camp BroaderWay welcomed young girls from under-served metro New York communities to a 10-day performing arts camp, run by Menzel and a team of acclaimed professional Broadway artists including Taye Diggs. During this camp, the girls collaborated with Broadway artists to write an original musical that was performed at a theatre in New York. The camp was held at Belvoir Terrace Summer Camp in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Menzel has long-championed LGBT rights by partnering with organizations like The Trevor Project, the Give A Damn Campaign (filming a public service announcement and designing a T-shirt) and the NOH8 Campaign, posing for one of their trademark duct-taped silence photos.
In April 2014, Menzel presented at Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnet Competition with Bryan Cranston, Fran Drescher, and Denzel Washington, after raising donations at her Broadway show If/Then.Still I Can't Be Still (1998)
I Stand (2008)
Live: Barefoot at the Symphony (2012)
Holiday Wishes (2014)