Broadway star Menzel ventures into pop music

Fri Jan 11, 2008 9:26pm EST
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By Mikael Wood

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Thanks to breakout roles in Broadway blockbusters "Rent" and "Wicked," Idina Menzel has become one of the biggest stars on the American musical theater scene.

For an indication of her status, consult the episode of "Will & Grace" in which Jack admits to making a "Broadway diva wig" with locks purloined from Menzel, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley and Bernadette Peters.

Yet long before she was singing show tunes, the 36-year-old Long Island native was belting out the latest Madonna and Whitney Houston hits at weddings and bar mitzvahs in the New York area. And it's that part of her musical persona that she intends to showcase on "I Stand," a 10-track pop disc due January 29 from Warner Bros.

"I've always wanted to do this," Menzel says. "It just happened to be that I got the opportunity to do 'Rent,' and so my life took that turn. But I've been writing songs since I was a teenager."

("I Stand" isn't Menzel's first studio album; she debuted in 1998 with the Hollywood set "Still I Can't Be Still," which has sold 15,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But she calls "I Stand" the first true reflection of her artistic sensibility.)

To make the album, Menzel paired with producer Glen Ballard, whom she says she's wanted to work with since hearing his work on Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill."

"My only goal was that I wasn't going to make an album based on show tunes," Menzel says. "I knew I wanted to do something more mainstream."

Ballard, according to Warner Bros. chief operating officer Diarmuid Quinn, enabled her to refine that position. "Glen pushed her into a place where she found what she was good at," he says.   Continued...