You Think You Know Idina Menzel? You Don't Know Idina Menzel

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
Idina Menzel

With the fabulous star of Broadway's "Wicked" and Disney's "Frozen" poised to take the Palace Theatre stage Aug. 19, there may be no better time to present Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Idina Menzel.

Some of the nuggets below might surprise even the 44-year-old singer's most ardent admirers-and we know they would surprise John Travolta, who needed two tries at the Oscars to get a handle on pronouncing Menzel's name.

Since we're talking names: "Idina" is a tribute to Menzel's great-grandmother, who was named Ida. "It's an Israeli name, a Hebrew name; it means 'gentle,' " Menzel told Playbill, adding, "In the Jewish religion, when someone passes, you name [a child] after [him or her] and use the first letter."

In spite of the fact her upcoming gig in Columbus is part of a world tour encompassing Tokyo, Manila and Glasgow, Menzel calls herself a "homebody." "I may have a big voice, but I actually like to be quiet and not listen to music that often ... just cuddle up to a movie," Menzel told Miamiartzine in 2011. She didn't say which one, though the Barbra Streisand remake of "A Star Is Born" might be a good guess. "My grandmother took me to see that in the movie theater," she told New York magazine.

Menzel turned her performance in "Rent" into a 1996 Tony nomination (a win would come later, in 2004, for "Wicked"). New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley praised "Rent" as an "exhilarating, landmark rock opera," but-ironically-did not focus on Menzel. Instead, Brantley praised her en masse with several of her co-stars, calling them "performers of both wit and emotional conviction." A good notice-but there was no indication of what a star the "Let It Go" singer would become.

It wasn't always all show tunes for Menzel; in her nascent singing career, she partook in other musical genres. According to the Washington Post's Peter Marks, her initial wedding-singing experience resulted in an appreciation of jazz. "They gave her a musical education, as she learned to perform jazz standards in the manner of the greats: Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan," Marks wrote in 2013. And, when Marks spoke with Menzel in the mid-'90s, he recalled, "she was iffy about a life in the theater," worrying about what would happen to her rock band.