This Way to the Missionary

In my 32 year lifetime, has anyone converted more adolescent disciples to the religion of Musicals than Idina Menzel?

If you subscribe to the theory that a decade separates one generation from the next, then she was at the center of three musical landmarks that indoctrinated three consecutive generations to the wonders of musicals. Crucially, she got them when they were young; for developing taste, usually it’s easier to build a foundation than to renovate a foundation.

Now let’s count off the individual blocks she helped place in these foundations:

While more on the periphery than her later touchstones, she was still a major part of Rent in 1996, which brought youth to the form, and the form to the youth.

Seven years later, there was nothing periphery about her contributions to Wicked’s success in 2003 and beyond; I will be on my deathbed screaming at the wallpaper about how Wicked would’ve never become Wicked without Idina.

And, when Frozen hit the screen a decade later in 2013, “Let It Go” would’ve never become “Let It Go” without Idina on the mic.

So let’s recap: two of the most the two most iconic show tunes OF THE ENTIRE CENTURY — “Defying Gravity” and “Let It Go” — were originally sung by THE SAME FREAKING PERSON?!?!

This observation comes to you courtesy of Disney+’s (grammar?) upcoming documentary Idina Menzel: Which Way to the Stage? If any of these words resonated with you, then:

A) you’re my people; a bunch of shamelessly sentimental corndogs.

B) find the biggest box of tissues for your watch.

Why do we hopeless flock have such emotional connections to musicals? A hypothesis:

When I was but a wayward lad, musicals became the soundtrack of my soul; they gave me a language register to translate the messy music of my being into soaringly clarifying song.

And Idina has been at the beating heart of that calculus for three sets of successive generations; I can’t think of a more profoundly meaningful legacy than that.

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