By Collin Kelley
Editor

Idina Menzel cemented her career as a singer and actress by originating the roles of Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked (which won her the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical), but she’s earned a new legion of fans with her guest turn on the hit television show Glee.

Menzel is currently on a concert tour across America and will land at Chastain Park Amphitheater on July 9 backed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Menzel said in a recent interview that the concert will feature numbers from Broadway (her signature songs and favorites from other shows) as well as tunes from her solo albums.

“It will be an evening of songs that I really love and I hope the audience will love, too,” she says. “It’s an eclectic show, but the power of the orchestra brings cohesion.”

The tour is also less rigorous than performing on Broadway, which allows her time to develop other projects and spend time with her husband, actor Taye Diggs. and their son, Walker. Menzel met Diggs when they worked on the original production of Rent and went on to star in the film version together. “The tour is allowing me to have the best of both worlds. I’m getting to tell a story on stage and letting the audience get to know me a little bit more rather than as a character.”

Before Menzel was cast on Glee, fans were campaigning for her to make an appearance as Rachel Berry’s long-lost birth mother, noting Menzel and actress Lea Michelle’s strong physical resemblance. Menzel starred in an emotionally wrenching story arc, where Rachel discovered that her mother was the scheming Shelby Cocoran, the coach of a rival glee club. Their duet of “I Dreamed a Dream” was a highlight of the season and an iTunes hit.

Menzel is still surprised she got the part. “I had just had the baby, I was overweight, breast-feeding,” she laughs. “I was trying to balance the motherhood/work thing and my heart was in pieces. The cast has a theater mentality, so working on the show was like being at home.”

She was coy about rather she’ll return to Glee next season, but her storyline was left wide open for a return. “I’d love to come back,” she says. “We’ll see.”

This summer, Menzel will be teaching at the summer camp she co-founded with Diggs, A BroaderWay Foundation. The camp is for seventh grade girls In New York who have limited access to the performing arts. Menzel’s excitement about the camp is palpable. “We’re going to be creating original theater pieces, working with an orchestra to compose music,” she says. “It’s going to be a fantastic summer.”

For more information and to buy tickets to Idina Menzel’s concert as part of the Delta Classic Chastain series, visit www.deltaclassicchastain.com.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.