Adele Dazeem the 21st Century Broadway Star

Broadway Star
How does one not acknowledge what’s happening with If/Then? Here’s a show that isn’t an adaptation of a cartoon or romcom chick flick. It’s got mixed word of mouth and a fuzzy premise.

Yet it’s selling better out of the gate than just about any original musical in memory. And the reason is that Idina Menzel is a Broadway star.

They aren’t supposed to exist anymore. A month ago maybe even she didn’t know if she was a real Broadway star. We live in a generation when musicals, plays and revivals run with Tony award winning “Broadway Stars” and close at a loss.

There are easily eight or nine stage actors that we all equate with stardom who can’t in all reality sell tickets.

So Idina Menzel is important. She’s important for audiences. But she’s more important for producers. They need to realize that a Broadway star can still exist. And if they still exist, then a play or musical can be successfully written around a personality. It must be decades since a (not) movie star could open a show at near capacity in previews.

If the professionals who make commercial theater want to figure out a very retro way to make money, I think they’d be best served to figure out how to make more of these very exotic Broadway stars. There are a few on stages right now who would be selling more tickets if the business invested in them as assets.

In a strange way, Menzel became a star despite expectations. Wicked was supposed to be another stars show. Did PBS know that she would be their new Riverdance? Then Frozen became a sensation, and a song I don’t even know is on 1000’s of YouTube videos.

But best is Adele Dazeem. In front of the entire planet, a famous movie star made a fool of himself mispronouncing the name of a Broadway star. The fact that she was marginalized on the Oscars somehow empowered her, and people took notice.
And when they did, they knew the voice, just like the old days when a special sound would catch the attention of the general public.

I think that this is a great time to be Idina Menzel. I also think that it’s a great time for people producing and writing for the theater to realize that there is still a value in having those who speak the lines and sing the songs to be above the title.

Adele Dazeem may end this year known for her real name. That should be message enough that a marketable Broadway personality is not a thing of the past.

Updated On: 3/17/14 at 11:50 PM
Broadway Legend
Listen, I don't take my clothes off for anyone, even if it is "artistic". - JANICE
Broadway Legend
I agree. If/Then's grosses are shocking for only 7 performances a week. I'm not always the biggest Idina fan, but it's thrilling to see a genuine Broadway star selling tickets in the 21st century.
Broadway Legend
^ This!!

(And in a wholly original musical, no less!)

I actually think your post is really well-written and on point, GoSmile. Couldn't agree more. Whatever you think of Menzel or IF/THEN, it's undeniably thrilling to see this show hit numbers that CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF with Scarlett Johansson and ROMEO AND JULIET with Orlando Bloom (each very high-profile plays and performers) never reached throughout their entire runs in the same theater.
Current Avatar: Tony-winner Idina Menzel, delivering a sucker-punch of an 11:00 number, "Always Starting Over," in IF/THEN.
Updated On: 3/18/14 at 12:01 AM
Featured Actor
All hail Queen Idina?

And I do believe everyone here is aware of If/Then's initial success being largely due to Idina's involvement. Whether or not it maintains this level for months is one test, and if it can survive without her is another.
Idina is our Ethel Merman except actually talented and a beautiful person.
Broadway Legend
^Oh dear God.
I just want to make it clear that larrystyles opinions on Ethel do not reflect most of Menzel's fans opinions/thoughts on Ethel lol
"Life in theater is give and take...but you need to be ready to give more then you take..."
Broadway Star
I totally agree! Although I still have mixed feelings for If/Then, I'm extremely proud of her and the entire cast and creative team and what they have accomplished. It's a beautiful and amazing thing to be able to watch an original musical from the very beginning.
Broadway Legend
I agree it's an encouraging sign. Does anyone know what their advance looks like, though? It will be interesting to see if the show sustains this, or if this strong start was due to the flurry of positive publicity she got after the "Adele Dazeem" Oscars fiasco.

I hope it does take off, not just because I enjoy Menzel, but because I admire that Kitt and Yorkey write shows that by conventional standards aren't considered "safe." It's refreshing to see wholly original musicals onstage these days, and I love that these two composers aren't afraid to tackle interesting, adult subject matter. I have no idea if this particular show succeeds or not, as I haven't seen it, but it's on the top of my list for my next visit to NYC.

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them"
~Walt Disney

"It's kind of fun to do the impossible."
~Walt Disney

My name is neither "adam" nor "greer."
I think this is an excellent post. A completely spot on summary.

I personally cannot wait to see Idina and If/Then when I visit NYC in June. Tickets are already booked.

With regards to these Broadway Stars other than Idina who do we think they are - Kristin Chenoweth? Megan Hilty? Brian D'Arcy James? Billy Porter? Audra McDonald? Sutton Foster?
Broadway Legend
She has her fans, no doubt; I still find her humorless and leaden, and the placement of her voice annoys me. But good for her for having a devoted following.
Michael Bennett
Broadway Legend
Hilty has never actually headlined a Broadway show (but perhaps could because of her recent TV visibility) and I wouldn't include Brian d'Arcy James or Billy Porter. I don't know that either could sell tickets on their name alone. But I would include Norbert and of course Kelli O Hara, who are probably the only other Broadway stars that are having new musicals written expressly for them.

Updated On: 3/18/14 at 08:54 AM
Broadway Star
I remember an interview she did not long after winning the Tony for WICKED in which she mused on fantasy v. reality and said it brought her spirits down to think that after the mob scene outside the Gershwin, with everyone clamoring for her autograph, all she has to do is walk a few blocks away or enter the subway to realize that she was invisible; that she could quickly go from a known entity to a non-entity. I don't think she meant it in a "love me!" kind of way, just as a musing on how one perceives herself or is perceived by others. In any case, that was then and this is now. I'm glad she's having such a great "now."
Broadway Legend
GoSmileLaugh, bravo!

Idina Menzel was the original star of two Broadway megahits. When you think about that it perhaps shouldn't be all that surprising that she can sell a show on Broadway. But we have been so conditioned to think that the only thing that sells is a different strata of celebrity that we do find it surprising.

There are many commonly held notions about what sells and what doesn't that need shaking up. Common box office wisdom (here I am speaking about movies as well as the stage) too often perfunctorily exalts not only men over women and the young over the more seasoned (Cate Blanchett's oscar acceptance speech eloquently took on that crap); but also Hollywood meganames over people whom John Travolta might mispronounce; and more established stars over artists whose stardom, whether midlevel, budding or inchoate, needs to be supported and fostered.

It might be a much more entertaining and even more profitable world if producers would stop buying in to established kneejerk ideas of what sells and think a little more about developing new talent, supporting talent already on the radar (including talent which has been far more than on the radar and for decades, like Ms. Menzel's), and about who might be great in something rather than which extremely well known person might possibly be adequate (or not, but people will probably - though not always - buy it anyway so who cares?) in something.

Updated On: 3/18/14 at 09:04 AM
Liza's Headband
Broadway Legend
We'll all agree to disagree. Idina is far from a mainstream star, so you could never really compare her to Merman. That being said, I strongly feel it is because of FROZEN - and FROZEN alone - that their grosses are so high. The fanatical obsession with that movie and with Idina's song is on a completely different level, and she is now known to the millions...maybe even "the voice of Elsa" or "that woman who sang Let It Go." I am not sure how long that recognition can last, but I guess we'll see.
Liza's Headband - I think that is grossly unfair. Her performance on Frozen opened her up to a new fanbase. Which only added to those she gained from playing Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked. Then there is her recurring role in Glee, not to mentioned guest spots on shows like Private Practice. Throw into the mix another rather successful film called Enchanted.
Broadway Legend
I think calling Idina Menzel a true Broadway star in the Merman route is disingenuous. What Menzel IS is what Kristin Chenoweth tried to be, tried SO HARD to be, and failed at. Just, a star. A minor one, but a serious star.

She has starred in two musicals (the ONLY TWO MUSICALS) of the past twenty years to reach iconic pop-culture status, Rent and Wicked.

She made repeat appearances on Glee back before it was a laughingstock, and appeared onscreen in a hit Disney film, and as the voice of a Disney Princess (queen, but princess at the start, and that's the brand) who shows early buzz to be one of the classics.

Moreover, she has done the unthinkable with "Let It Go:" turned a show tune into an enormous mainstream success. Not the pop version, either- that barely made waves.

But if you take away one piece of the Idina pie- the Broadway credits, the film work- she suddenly seems less important. If you took away Merman's film or television work, her Broadway career speaks for itself as making her a legend, because you COULD do that back then.
Broadway Legend
I think Kristin Chenoweth is capable of selling tickets as well. PROMISES, PROMISES sold quite well, though I believe being paired with Sean Hayes contributed.

Updated On: 3/18/14 at 09:37 AM
Broadway Legend
Yea, I agree with ljsy. I tihnk Cheno is as big a "star" as Adele Dazeem.

And you can't discount the Frozen effect.

....but the world goes 'round
Broadway Legend
"But if you take away one piece of the Idina pie- the Broadway credits, the film work- she suddenly seems less important. If you took away Merman's film or television work, her Broadway career speaks for itself as making her a legend, because you COULD do that back then."

Yes, Ms. Merman appeared in 10 Broadway shows in 14 years at the start of her career. Ms. Menzel will probably be lucky to appear in 10 Broadway shows her entire career and I tend to doubt it.
Broadway Star
While I certainly think the huge success of “Frozen” is helping to aid these sales, I don’t think that it’s the ONLY reason. Certainly it expanded her fan base, but, probably about half of “Frozen’s” fan base are children who are not age appropriate for “If/Then,” anyway. She does have an extremely large fan base, but she also is a big Broadway name – a big enough name that I would venture to guess that even those in the theatre community who wouldn’t necessarily call themselves fans of hers would be interested in checking out the show to see her performance.

And, I’ve said it before, but I think those who live in NYC can sometimes underestimate how well known Idina’s name is throughout the country. Even before “Frozen,” if I asked those friends and family members of mine who are not regular theatre-goers to name some Broadway stars, I believe that most of them would be able to come up with Idina’s name. They may not know who she is or a thing about her (except maybe a vague idea of her connection to “Wicked”), but she is recognizable as a Broadway star. When these same people head to NYC and decide to take in a show and they see her name attached to one, that recognition (and knowing they will be seeing a real “Broadway star”) can be enough to sway them to see “If/Then”.

Either way, it is great to see a Broadway performer be such a draw for a show.
Broadway Star
"I strongly feel it is because of FROZEN - and FROZEN alone - that their grosses are so high. The fanatical obsession with that movie and with Idina's song is on a completely different level, and she is now known to the millions...maybe even "the voice of Elsa" or "that woman who sang Let It Go." I am not sure how long that recognition can last"

I'm not sure I agree with your premise, but if Disney has taught us anything, it is that their audience is one of perpetual turnover. There are kids who are yet to be conceived who will grow up with Frozen on their shelves, not to mention the plans for Frozen 2, the thoughts of Frozen on Broadway, etc.

If you attend The Lion King, most of those kids weren't born when the movie was originally released.

Now, a lot of people will just watch it and never think twice about who voiced the character, what else do they sing, or if they perform on Broadway... but there are enough who do follow through like that.
Now t/d/b/a haterobics on here.
Broadway Legend
'I strongly feel it is because of FROZEN - and FROZEN alone - that their grosses are so high.'

I can't sign on to this either. I was actually discussing Menzel's career this weekend with friends (it was a reeeeeally gay weekend).

She's the only Broadway actor working who has laid claim to major roles in three watershed pieces of music theater (if we count Frozen, and I do). RENT was not only a huge it, it was culturally relevant. Or at least as culturally relevant as music theater could be at the end of the last century. WICKED defied tepid reviews and has become a juggernaut that few expected. And now, with FROZEN (and the Travolta fumble), she's experiencing exposure that dwarfs the other two hits with which she's associated. Who else has had that? No one in the last 30-40 years. She has kind of been the musical theater voice for young women and men empowering themselves. It's actually kind of odd to see it regressing from sexually vibrant Maureen to kid-friendly Elsa...but there you have it. When you think of the teenagers who were camping out on the streets to see RENT 18 years ago, they're now of the age where they're bringing their kids to see FROZEN. I don't if it was smart choices or dumb luck, but whatever it is, it's worked for her.
Broadway Legend
Oh please, Audra and Chenowith are much bigger stars than Idina, just due to their presence in Hollywood. Kristen is a regular on all the talk shows, pals around with Cher and Kathy Griffen, starred on TV shows and won an Emmy. Audra, though probably a little less famous than the Chen, was a TV star who's also featured a lot on talk shows (David Letterman very recently) and was all the rage very recently as her performance in the hugely viewed Sound of Music was the twitter talk of the nation (mainly cause the leads were so bad, it was a comparative-thing). Idina had a fair Elphaba fan base, (America has already forgotten the OBC of Rent) and got a big boost from Frozen, the Let It Go phenomenon, and the Travolta mess. She is much more famous now than she was six months ago, and at the moment might seem more famous than either of the other women. But. That kind of fame will fade fast. She can sing, but she isn't the actress either Chenowith or Audra are, she'll never make that transition to Hollywood, where, with the price of tickets, our true Broadway stars' worths are measured.

Updated On: 3/18/14 at 11:50 AM
Broadway Legend
Well Audra and Chenoweth have yet to have a top 10 song on the Billboard hot 100. That is a major feat for the song, especially being that it's the standard Idina version, not the god awful Demi Lovato version.