Idina MenzelIdina Menzel is, in many ways, this generation's Barbra Streisand. She's Jewish, a New Yorker, and honed her exceptional voice on Broadway. Moreover, her talents overran the artificial boundaries of popular art, spilling over into half a dozen different genres.
Not surprisingly, Menzel was a Streisand fan as a child. Then "Annie" came along.
"Back when I was young, like when I was eight, nine, 10 years old, I was just an Annie freak," she said in one interview. "I saw it twice. I saw it with Andrea McArdle and Sarah Jessica Parker. So I was a big fan of theirs, and I used to try to sing all the songs at the top of my lungs. Then my mom brought me to a voice teacher when I was really little because she thought I had talent. And then the teacher said, "Whoa! I'm going to take you just because you're screaming your head off and I don't want you to lose your voice forever."
Born May 30, 1971 on Long Island, Menzel sang at weddings and bar mitzvahs while attending the New York University School of the Arts ("You're singing your heart out," she once told People Maghazine," and people are eating salads").
In 1995, she auditioned for the role of Maureen Johnson in the rock musical "Rent," and rode that role to a Tony nomination.
When she finally left "Rent" in 1971, Menzel didn't miss a beat, recording the solo album ":Still I Can't Be Still" and touring behind it. Soon, however, she was back on stage, landing roles in "the Summer of '42," "Hair" and "Aida."
It was off-Broadway that she first worked with Taye Diggs, who became her boyfriend and then husband. That was in Andrew Lippa's "The Wild Party."
Menzel's career finally crested over the top in 2004, when she won a Tony for the role of Elphaba in "Wicked."
Her second album, "Here," was released in 2004. By then, Menzel had also moved into film and television.
One of the defining characteristics of Menzel's career has been her ability to put a permanent stamp on some of her characters -- most notably Maureen and Elphaba )a part for which she wore green makeup). With both roles, she took them from stage to film.
"It has always been the strangest excperience," she said of the "Rent" movie, produced after the death of show creator Jonathan Larson. "Our lives were all transformed in so many wonderful ways, but Jonathon wasn't around for any of it. That always grounded me and gave me a sense of perspective. Whenever I'm too caught up in myself or in something superficial, I remind myself that it's because of Jonathan Larson that I am where I am today."
Menzel and Diggs were married on Jan. 11, 2003 in Jamaica, and are currently expecting their first child.