Wicked witch to working mom

  • Article by: ROHAN PRESTON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2012 - 2:13 PM

Idina Menzel, famed for the role of Elphaba in the musical "Wicked," is touring nationally with her toddler in tow.

Idina Menzel in concert

Photo: Concord Music Group, Star Tribune

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To hear Idina Menzel tell it, she is just a regular working mom who juggles family and job. It's just that her workplace is bathed in spotlights and thunderous applause.

The Tony-winning star of "Wicked" and "Rent" and regular on TV's "Glee" has been on a national tour to support an album that came out of a PBS special earlier this year: "Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony."

And she has been toting along her 2-year-old son, Walker Diggs, on the tour bus. So what if he doesn't sleep through the night, or that he takes naps in the daytime?

"When he takes a nap, we all take a nap," she said. "We're the nappiest family."

Menzel was on the horn last week from Midland, Mich., north of Detroit, where she was performing that evening. She brings her show to Minneapolis' Orpheum Theatre on Saturday.

Menzel, 41, and her husband, actor Taye Diggs, met in "Rent," where she originated the role of Maureen. The two don't have a merged moniker, like, say, Brangelina, but they are a bi-coastal theater power couple, with pads in New York and Los Angeles. He plays Dr. Sam Bennett on "Private Practice," which is shot around Los Angeles, where "Glee," in which Menzel has played substitute teacher and club director Shelby Corcoran, is also produced.

"He was in Europe for the last 10 days but he gets to check in with us as often as he can," she said.

Broadway power couple

Walker, their offspring, has no idea about his influence. The interview with Menzel, for example, originally scheduled for lunchtime, was pushed back to the middle of her late-afternoon sound check because, well, Walker wasn't up for it.

"This is what you do for love," Menzel said. "He's changed my outlook, my perspective, on everything. My desire to be there for him has liberated me, has made me a better person. And it takes the pressure off of what I do onstage. I get up there and do the best I can. If I was up with him all night and can't hit that note, then so be it."

Not that she has been missing any notes on this tour where she has performed "Defying Gravity," the "Wicked" anthem, and songs by Barbra Streisand. The reviews have been laudatory.

"Like an unexpected joy ride, Idina Menzel's 'Picnic With the Pops' concert with the Columbus Symphony was a pleasant surprise," said the Columbus Dispatch.

Meeting Barbra

Like most working actors, Menzel has many irons in the fire. Disney just announced that she will voice the lead role in its upcoming animated feature "Frozen." The movie is based on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen."

Menzel also is working on a "super-secret musical."

"I have a really good feeling about it, but if I tell you anything about it, I'd have to kill you," she said.

So, it's back to "Barefoot," in which she gets to do things that she never imagined. She has combined songs by Sting and Cole Porter. She does Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." And she gets to sing "Don't Rain on My Parade," a Streisand signature song.

"Of course, nobody can do it like her, and I wouldn't even try," Menzel said. "I held off on singing that song so long but couldn't anymore. I grew up singing it. This show is about singing the music that you love. I'll never be her. I'm just telling the story of my life that involves her music."

Menzel had an opportunity to meet Streisand in Washington, D.C., where the former performed for the latter, a Kennedy Center honoree.

Streisand's reaction "was a little hot and cold," Menzel said. "It was hard to figure out if it was a good or bad review. But since then, I received a beautiful handwritten note."

Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390

  • IDINA MENZEL: BAREFOOT AT THE SYMPHONY

    What: The Tony-winning Broadway star of "Rent" and "Wicked" sings songs from her album and from her role on "Glee."

    When: 8 p.m. Sat.

    Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.

    Tickets: $43.50-$104. 1-800-982-2787 or www.hennepintheatretrust.org.

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