It’s been 20 years since “Wicked” premiered at Broadway’s Gershwin Theater and changed musical theater history forever. Jewish star Idina Menzel, who played Elphaba Throop, aka the future Wicked Witch of the West, in both the San Fransisco tryouts and in its first Broadway run, has taken to social media to reflect on those early days.
One specific post was incredibly relatable: In it, Menzel shared some pictures from opening night of “Wicked,” including one in which she and co-star Kristin Chenoweth (Glinda) kiss Joel Grey (the Wonderful Wizard of Oz) and recounted that on opening nights, “my mom likes to go to the restroom at intermission and tell everyone that I’m her daughter.”
Nothing like a kvelling Jewish mom! Honestly, we probably all know a lot of moms who would do just that. In fact, I bet Idina’s character from “You Are So Not Invite to My Bat Mitzvah” would be kvelling in the bathroom if Stacey became a Broadway star.
Helene Mentzel, Idina’s mom (yes, they spell their last name differently), is a therapist, and while she didn’t initially approve of Idina’s aspirations of being a child star, she was incredibly supportive of her daughter’s skills, which were discovered during a family vacation in the Catskills (Idina went to Camp Olympus outside Monticello). Idina often posts photos of Helene on her Instagram, and she even had her and her sister Cara — with whom she’s co-written multiple children’s books — to help promote her QVC clothing line:
Idina credits a lot of her career to her early days singing at weddings and bat mitzvahs (while she didn’t have a bat mitzvah herself, she did perform some haftorah during her 2009 tour). The singer and actress, who is now perhaps best known for voicing Princess Elsa in “Frozen,” has also shared some fun delightful behind-the-scenes throwbacks from “Wicked,” including one in which she shows people how she got that distinctive green makeup look. She also shared some videos of early rehearsals in the summer of 2003, in which the former “Rent” star had no idea how many lives and theater camp productions she was about to change… for good.
I’m so thankful for Idina and “Wicked.” After all, where would I be if I couldn’t listen to “For Good” and “Defying Gravity” whenever I’m going through a tough time? Aside from Joel and Idina, we also have two Jewish creators to thank for the joy of “Wicked” — “My So-Called Life” creator Winnie Holzman who wrote the stage play, and composer Stephen Schwartz who also gave us the great music of “The Prince of Egypt.” We’re grateful for them all.