If/Then Begins Previews, With Idina Menzel, But Not With Adele Dazeem

Idina Menzel in if/then on BroadwayIdina Menzel has returned to the Broadway stage for the first time in almost 10 years.  If/Then, a new musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning team behind Next to Normal) began previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.  The musical is directed by Michael Greif, who first cast Idina in the role that became her big break – Maureen in Rent – and it is produced by David Stone, who mounted the production that earned her a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical – for playing Elphaba in Wicked.  In If/Then, she plays a woman named Elizabeth on the verge of turning 40 who, after a divorce, decides to move to New York City to make a fresh start.  The official opening will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

If/Then is the only new musical this spring season that is not based on pre-existing source material.  With the marketplace competition dominated by recognizable titles such as Rocky, Aladdin, Bullets Over Broadway, and The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then might have a tough time standing out.

However, national awareness of this show and its star was unintentionally heightened during this past Sunday’s Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, broadcast, when John Travolta infamously mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance of the song Let It Go from the Disney animated film Frozen.  Without displaying any sign of recognizing his error, Travolta presented her as “Adele Dazeem.”  Social media has been in an uproar about this flub ever since, and people who had never even heard of Idina Menzel now know that her name is, in fact, Idina Menzel.

Apparently, the producers of If/Then realized the benefits of this tangential publicity, as the show’s official twitter account referred to the Oscars incident by tweeting “You Know Her Name.  Idina Menzel stars in If/Then on Broadway March 5th.”  Furthermore, a less official statement, but one that is still traceable to the production team, made its way across the cybersphere.  In what appeared to be an insert from the Playbill for If/Then, a picture of Idina from the Oscars was accompanied by the text: “At this performance the role of “Elizabeth” will be played by “Adele Dazeem.””  A joke bio then followed which cited her as having played “Moritz” in Nert, followed by “Ephraima” in Wicked-ly, and referred her voice performance in the Disney animated musical Farfignugen.  (Clearly this was a play on “Maureen” in Rent, “Elphaba” in Wicked, and Frozen.)  Though the note has been confirmed not to have truly been inserted into Playbills in the theatre, it fooled many people who thought it was real.  Among others, the image was tweeted by Janet Krupin, an actress in If/Then.  As those inside the theatre’s doors were spreading the prank, it is possible that the producers were the ones behind it, taking advantage of the added exposure from Travolta’s blunder.

taye diggs and idina menzel

In any case, Idina Menzel already has a huge fan base from her vast success in her career thus far, and hopefully the show’s merits will allow it to shine at the box office.  The musical had a pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. from November 5, 2013 to December 8, 2013, the reviews for which were not wildly positive.  Though critics praised Idina’s performance as well as the score, the storyline was reportedly muddled.  The musical features a “Sliding Doors” – style plot with two “what-if” scenarios played out side-by-side, as Elizabeth becomes both the characters “Liz” and “Beth.”  Audiences found this a bit difficult to follow.  Still, fixing kinks is what out-of-town tryouts are for, and hopefully the creative team has had time to refine the plot structure in the intervening months.

The story is actually not far from Idina’s own experience.  She recently separated from her husband of 10 years and Rent co-star Taye Diggs, and at age 42, she is struggling to be a mother to her four year-old son while revitalizing her Broadway career.  After attempting to develop herself as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles in the years since Wicked, she is now ready to take on this role which is surprisingly close to her heart.  A naturally raw and vulnerable performer, audiences can expect that her character will pulsate with the truth of her own experience, not to mention the gravity-defying power of her sensational singing voice – no matter what her name is: Idina, Adele, Elizabeth, Liz, or Beth.

Wicked Celebrates 10th Anniversary This Month

Wicked Broadway MusicalThe hit Broadway musical Wicked has been playing on the Great White Way for 10 years now, and the show is celebrating by releasing a deluxe two-disc edition of its original Broadway cast recording (available for digital download on October 29 and in stores on November 19).

The deluxe 10th Anniversary Wicked cast recording will feature bonus tracks, the single “Popular Song” by MIKA, new artwork, and a booklet that includes new essays by songwriter Stephen Schwartz and novelist Gregory Maguire. A vinyl edition of the album will also be available, directly for purchase at the Gershwin Theatre where Wicked plays or on WickedtheMusical.com.

Other Wicked 10th anniversary celebrations taking place this month include a showcase of the musical’s memorabilia and costumes at the NBC Experience Store at Rockefeller Center, as well as Facebook and Twitter promotions that will offer prizes to fans.

Broadway’s Wicked Makes It Into the Smithsonian Museum

Wicked Broadway MusicalIf there was any doubt that the Broadway musical Wicked has made an indelible mark on American culture, that doubt should disappear with the news that the iconic Elphaba witch costume, hat, and broom from the hit musical have been inducted into the Smithsonian’s popular Washington D.C.-based National Museum of American History.

The induction ceremony took place on December 17, and the costume’s designer, Tony winner Susan Hilferty, was there to sign the deed of gift.  Donna Vivino and Tiffany Haas, current cast members from the Broadway production of Wicked, were there to sing a number from Stephen Schwartz’s popular score to the show.

National Museum of American History acting director Marc Pachter stated that, “This donation is a significant addition to the museum’s entertainment collection and shows the enduring cultural contribution of Broadway hits to American life.”  Current and former musicals The Lion King, Rent, and The King and I are among the other chosen few Broadway musicals to be represented at the Smithsonian museum.

Broadway Musical Wicked Stands Up To Bullies

On October 11, the long-running Broadway hit Wicked will host a special event co-sponsored by anti-bullying organizations The It Gets Better Project and The Ben Cohen Standup Foundation.  The one-night-only event designed “to help combat bullying” will include a performance of Wicked followed by a post-show talk-back discussion with members of the Wicked cast, rugby star Ben Cohen, and It Gets Better co-founder and columnist Dan Savage.  The subject of the talk-back will be about what might be done to stop bullying.

Given its themes about popularity, what it means to be different, and the effects of being treated as an outsider, Wicked is an ideal Broadway show to shine a light on the important issue of bullying.  For the last several years, the show has participated in programs such as BullyBust, which brings a message of tolerance directly to classrooms through special materials and in-class workshops.

Tickets for the Wicked anti-bullying event include admission to the 8pm performance of the show on Thursday, October 11, as well as admission to the post-performance discussion.  Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to support both The Ben Cohen Standup Foundation and The It Gets Better Project, both of which work to raise awareness about the serious consequences of bullying and to help give young people the confidence to combat it.  Click here to get Wicked tickets.