Idina Menzel on the 15th anniversary of 'Wicked' and what she learned in Oz

Suzy Evans
Suzy Evans

The green witch is back. Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway 15 years ago, and now she's taking flight (so to speak) for the special anniversary concert, which airs on NBC on October 29.

We caught up with Menzel about what she learned from her time in Oz.

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What do you bring to the songs now that you couldn't 15 years ago?

You can either try to step back into your role when you sing songs like this as an actor, or you can sing the song as a vocal interpreter and a 47-year-old woman. Each night it's probably different for me, which is what I love about theatre and live performance. I would think on most nights, though, I think I return to the young girl inside me when I sing it. Because even as women, we all have the young girl in us that we need to keep talking to and telling her to believe in herself, and to find out who she is. To really understand that being different, being powerful is not angry or ugly — it's beautiful, extraordinary, it's gonna lead her. I'm reminded of that all the time. I go off the stage and I cry.

A new generations keep falling in love with this, even after 15 years. What has that been like for you? And then what do you think makes it such a timeless classic?

It's a remarkable gift in my life, honestly. You can play a lot of roles and have a lot of great projects, but it's rare to have something like this that resonates with young audiences. To grow up with people through a role, through an experience, and like I said too, something that reminds us all about being courageous, and taking risks, harnessing that power in us in order to change the world.

How do you think being in Wicked shaped your career?

Wicked changed my career. I mean, I just get more and more career opportunities and things like that. I think it changed me as a performer, the whole process. The many years of working on Wicked and the workshops leading all the way through my run on Broadway built my confidence as a performer and my process and what I have to offer.

Was there ever a night when something went horribly awry onstage?

It's more on Kristin [Chenoweth, as Glinda]. It's this thing where Norbert [Leo Butz, as Fiyero] would always swing in on this rope, and the rope would swing back and then it would catch her tiara and drag her around. Then I had to keep myself from peeing in my pants. There's a bunch of those times.

Do you have anything from your time in Wicked that you still keep with you?

The hat. I have some green baby somebody gave me. I think I have the broom, my dad has a broom in his house. But I have the hat.

Where do you keep it?

It's in my closet, up on a shelf. Unfortunately my nine-year-old son really doesn't give a shit. Maybe one day he'll think it's cool.

Photo courtesy of NBC

Originally published on

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