DIVA TALK: A Chat with Wicked's Idina Menzel Plus News of Cook and Ripley
By Andrew Gans
News, views and reviews about the multi-talented women of the musical theatre and the concert/cabaret stage.
There has never been any doubt about Idina Menzel's vocal prowess. From the moment she stepped on to the Broadway stage as Maureen in the late Jonathan Larson's Rent, it was clear that the young performer possessed a thrilling belt. She subsequently demonstrated her powerful tones in the Manhattan Theatre Club's production of The Wild Party, the City Center Encores! mounting of Hair and the all star Funny Girl benefit concert for the Actors' Fund of America. However, with her starring role in Stephen Schwartz's Wicked, Menzel has taken a great leap forward as an actress. She is currently offering her most nuanced performance to date, making us care greatly for the fate of her character, Elphaba, the not-so-Wicked Witch of the West. Menzel is funny, often touching and delivers a passionately sympathetic performance of a woman whose outward differences force her to confront the ignorance of those around her. I recently had the chance to chat with the soft-spoken Menzel, who will soon welcome husband Taye Diggs another former Renter to the cast of Wicked for a limited engagement. That brief conversation follows.
Question: How does it feel being back on Broadway?
Q: So, did you trip Norbert [Leo Butz] to get your husband into the show. [Laughs.]
Q: Are you excited about your husband joining the show?
Q: How long does it take you to apply the green make-up, and how long does it take to get it off after the show?
Q: What is the make-up? Did the designers have to experiment with different types?
Q: Do you keep the color on between shows on matinee days?
Q: Was this the first time you've gone out of town with a show? What was that experience like?
Q: What was it like working with Joe Mantello as a director?
Q: Do you have a favorite song or moment in the show?
Q: What do you think the message of Wicked is?
Q: Was theatre always your plan or were you originally more interested in a pop career?
Q: And you have a new album coming out?
Q: A lot of your former Rent co-stars are back on stage this season. Do you still spend time with them?
Q: Are you involved in any other theatre projects or workshops?
(Wicked plays the Gershwin Theatre, 222 West 51st Street; call 212-307-4100 for tickets.)
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Barbara Cook will make her Metropolitan Opera debut New Year's Eve. During the New Year's Eve gala performance of Franz Lιhar's The Merry Widow, Cook will appear in the Act III party scene where she will offer renditions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "A Wonderful Guy," Rodgers and Hart's "He Was Too Good to Me," Stephen Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" and Carl Fischer and Frankie Laine's "We'll Be Together Again." The Merry Widow cast features Susan Graham in the title role, Bo Skovhus as Danilo, Emily Pulley as Valencienne, Paul Groves as Camille and James Courtney as Baron. Kirill Petrenko will conduct the orchestra, and Wally Harper will serve as Cook's accompanist and conductor. Tickets for The Merry Widow are available by calling (212) 362-6000 or by logging on to www.metopera.org. The Dec. 31 performance begins at 7:30 PM. . . . Avenue Q star Ann Harada will step into the "Broadway Spotlight" which presents concert evenings with stars of the musical theatre Feb. 2. Harada, who portrays Christmas Eve in the hit musical at the Golden Theatre, will take centerstage at the Ars Nova Theater Feb. 2. Show time is 8 PM. As previously announced, Dance of the Vampires' Max von Essen will precede Harada in the "Spotlight"; von Essen will perform at the intimate theatre Jan. 5 and 19, 2004 at 8 PM. The Ars Nova Theater is located in Manhattan at 511 West 54th Street. Tickets are priced at $12; doors open at 7:30 PM. Call (212) 868-4444 for tickets or go to www.SmartTix.com. . . . Side Show Tony nominee Alice Ripley has been cast in the new Off-Broadway comedy Five Flights, which will play the Rattlestick Theater next month. Ripley will portray Olivia in the Adam Bock comedy, which begins previews Jan. 13, 2004, with an official opening scheduled for Jan. 19. The limited engagement will play through Feb. 22. Directed by Kent Nicholson, the cast also includes Joanna Adler, Kevin Karrick, Jason Butler Harner, Matthew Montelongo and Lisa Steindler. The play comprises five scenes, in which playwright Bock "uses birds as metaphors to describe a dysfunctional family who populate [the play] about siblings who must decide the fate of an aviary built by their recently deceased father." The Rattlestick Theater is located at 224 Waverly Place between West 11th and Perry Streets. Tickets, priced at $37.50, are available by calling (212) 868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com. . . . Original Thoroughly Modern Millie stars Sutton Foster and Marc Kudisch will both be part of the latest Broadway By the Year concert Feb. 9, 2004. Foster who will leave her Tony-winning role Feb. 15 and Kudisch, who is now starring Off-Broadway in The Thing About Men, will join Nancy Opel, Christopher Fitzgerald, Nancy Anderson and Bill Daugherty for Broadway By the Year: 1926, which celebrates the musicals that graced the New York stage in 1926. Concertgoers can expect to hear tunes from Oh, Kay!, The Desert Song, The Garrick Gaieties of 1926 and Scandals of 1926. Scott Siegel conceived and directs the series, which will continue March 15 (Broadway By the Year: 1935), April 19 (Broadway By the Year: 1949) and June 14 (Broadway By the Year: 1963). Although the starry line-ups for those evenings have yet to be announced, among the performers scheduled to take part include Judy Blazer, Darius de Haas, Eddie Korbich, Emily Skinner and Chip Zien. Tickets for Broadway By the Year shows are priced at $37.50 and $45 and will go on sale Jan. 2, 2004, by calling (212) 307-4100 or (212) 840-2824. Town Hall is located at 123 West 43rd Street. Visit www.the townhall-nyc.org for more information. . . . Another Town Hall event: Tovah Feldshuh who is currently portraying Golda Meir in the one-woman show Golda's Balcony at the Helen Hayes Theatre and recent Listen to My Heart star Alix Korey are among the women scheduled to perform in a concert titled From Brooklyn to Hollywood. Also conceived and written by Siegel, the May 3 evening will also feature the talents of jazz vocalist Natalie Douglas, Forbidden Broadway regular Christine Pedi, Starmites Tony nominee Sharon McNight and The Full Monty's Annie Golden. Show time is 8 PM. From Brooklyn to Hollywood will celebrate the Hollywood composers, songs and stars "that made and make Brooklyn proud." Brooklyn alums Neil Diamond, Harry Nillson and Barbra Streisand will be saluted as well as such films as "The Kid From Brooklyn," "It Happened in Brooklyn" and "Saturday Night Fever." Concertgoers can also expect to hear Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer's "Cowboy From Brooklyn." Tickets to the concert are priced $35 and $30 and will go on sale Jan. 2, 2004, by calling (212) 307-4100 or (212) 840-2824. . . . Hairspray's Laura Bell Bundy and Urinetown's Nancy Opel will take part in a reading of a new musical titled But I'm a Cheerleader. The by-invitation-only reading will be held Jan. 12, 2004, at Primary Stages on West 45th Street. Those actors joining Bundy and Opel for the reading include Stephanie Kurtzuba, Simone Catalano, John Dewar, Leo Ash Evens, Mary Faber, Colby Foytik, John Hill, Telly Leung, Logan Lipton, Michael Longoria, Moeisha McGill, Stefani Miller, Peter Reardon, Tom Richter and Montι Smock. The musical based on the Lions Gate film by Jamie Babbit and Brian Wayne Peterson features book and lyrics by Bill Augustin and music by Andrew Abrams. Amy Rogers will direct the reading, which features musical direction by Andrew Byrne.
Betty Buckley in Concert:
Through Dec. 20 at Feinstein's at the Cinegrill in Los Angeles, CA
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Jan. 17, 2004 in Asheville, NC
Patti LuPone in Concert:
Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Christiane Noll in Concert
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little
Louise Pitre in Concert:
Jan. 31, 2004-Feb. 8 in Sweeney Todd with the Calgary Opera Company at the Jubilee Auditorium in Canada
Well, thats all for now. Happy diva-watching!
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