January 30, 2023

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Idina Menzel to Star in New Stage Musical ‘Redwood’

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Idina Menzel is returning to the stage.

The Tony winner will star in “Redwood,” a musical he began developing nearly 20 years ago, which will premiere as the final production of La Jolla Playhouse’s 2023-2024 season. Directed by Tina Landau, who also wrote the book, the show tells the story of Jessie (Menzel), a woman who leaves the big city for a cross-country trip to Northern California. He finds unexpected connections and healing in the redwoods.

Menzel originally envisioned the show as a bio-musical about Julia Butterfly Hill, an environmental activist famous for living in a redwood for more than two years in the late ’90s to keep loggers from cutting it down. Menzel approached Landau two decades ago about collaborating on the project.

The new story is inspired by experiences that both Menzel and Landau have lived through in the years since they first met. “I want to escape with this feeling more often in my life,” Menzel said. diversity Wednesday in a joint interview with Landau. “I’m more of a loner than people think I am… I definitely struggle with a lot of things in my life, like, ‘Can I put everything down and do something else?'”

With music by Kate Diaz and lyrics by Diaz and Landau, Menzel said, “It’s so exciting to work with Tina because she definitely knows how — and she’s guiding Kate in this — to write for me, but also how to challenge me and put me in a place. Which isn’t formulaic or my usual go-to. It’s opening up my vernacular and forcing me to find new colors and spaces in my voice that I think are just fun, and have different emotional connections for me with the character and hopefully different cycles. Open up, if you will, to other people while they’re listening.”

In some ways, “Redwood” will be an interactive experience for viewers. “The design isn’t really a set as much as it’s using some really exciting, cutting-edge multimedia interactive technology that’s never been used in American musical theater before,” Landau said. He also explained that it was the quarantine in the early days of the pandemic that finally gave him time to sit down to concentrate and work on writing the show.

Menzel became a Broadway star when she played Maureen in “Rent.” She won a Tony for her performance as Elphaba in “Wicked,” and her performance in “Let It Go” from “Frozen” — she also played Elsa in the Disney animation franchise — became an international sensation. She played Adam Sandler’s wife in the indie favorite “Uncut Gems,” and she recently premiered the documentary “Idina Menzel.” Which way to stage?” on Disney+.

Landau’s credit included The SpongeBob Musical,” which received 12 Tony nominations, revivals of Tracy Letts’ “Superior Donuts” and “Bells Are Ringing.

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