Singer-actress Idina Menzel follows the footsteps of her idol

Idina Menzel (right) takes on the role of CC Bloom in a made-for-television film reboot of Beaches, which also stars actress Nia Long (both above).
Idina Menzel (above) takes on the role of CC Bloom in a made-for-television film reboot of Beaches, which also stars actress Nia Long.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Idina Menzel (right) takes on the role of CC Bloom in a made-for-television film reboot of Beaches, which also stars actress Nia Long (both above).
Idina Menzel takes on the role of CC Bloom in a made-for-television film reboot of Beaches, which also stars actress Nia Long (both above).PHOTO: LIFETIME

Broadway star Idina Menzel knows she has big shoes to fill in taking on Bette Midler's iconic role in a reboot of the movie Beaches (1988), but she could not pass up on the TV film role

Most people would steer clear of taking on an iconic role, especially when it is so closely associated with the actor who previously played it.

So what was Idina Menzel thinking when she accepted Bette Midler's beloved role in the reboot of the cult classic film Beaches (1988)?

"You know, that's a good question, because I would have wanted to steer clear of this too," Menzel, 45, says with a chuckle in a telephone interview.

"It's terrifying to try to walk in an icon's footsteps, especially (those of) someone like Bette Midler, who has been an inspiration to me my whole life."

Midler, 71, is a celebrated singer and actress who found success across music and film. She has 14 studio albums to her name and award-winning performances in films such as The Rose (1979) and Gypsy (1993).

Menzel says: "But I don't have as much of an opportunity to do TV or film because I am mostly in theatre, so I didn't want to pass up on this. And since this role allowed me to do a bit of all that I love at once - singing, dancing, comedy, drama - I felt like it was hard for me to look away."

In this made-for-television film reboot, which premieres on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on Wednesday, Menzel takes on Midler's role of CC Bloom, an aspiring actress and singer who tries to make it big in Hollywood.

Supporting her dreams is her childhood best friend Hillary (played by Nia Long), who later gets caught in a love triangle with her and the charming theatre director John (Antonio Cupo).

The tearjerker is Menzel's biggest television role to date, after having dabbled in supporting roles on shows such as Private Practice (2009) and Glee (2010-2013).

On stage however, she is a marquee name, having led major Broadway musicals such as Rent (1996) and Wicked (2003) - the latter earning her a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress In A Musical.

Younger audiences, meanwhile, will know her for playing Elsa on Disney's mega-hit animated feature Frozen (2013), for which she also sang the popular theme song, Let It Go.

Menzel, who has a seven- year-old son with her ex-husband, actor Taye Diggs, says: "I really hope I get to do more TV or film after this because I want to try everything, although I'm busy with my music as I'm going on a world tour soon.

"The arts is an amazing thing... even when it's not at the most successful time of your life, you'll always have the arts with you. You get back on stage and it fuels you until the next part of your life begins."

1 How many times have you seen the original Beaches (1988)?

Countless times. I first saw it in high school with my two best friends and we all cried our eyes out. Bette Midler has been my idol since I was a little girl and I've seen everything that she has been in. So I can't tell you how many times I've seen Beaches.

2 In the Beaches reboot, you display good chemistry with your co-star Long. Was that chemistry apparent from the start?

We knew each other a bit from the past because she had worked with my ex-husband on some things. So I've met her before. We hit it off immediately. We pushed and encouraged each other throughout filming and it was just great working with her.

3 How much do you identify with your Beaches character CC Bloom?

We share so many inherent similarities, so there was an easy connection made here with this role. That need to be liked and have attention - I can relate to all of that. Some of us who seem the most bold and outspoken are often the most fragile and sensitive.

4 In real life, do you have friends who help you stay grounded, much like the girls in Beaches?

Yes, I have that with my best friend Debbie from college. We know each other's secrets, we've grown up with each other and we're honest with each other to a fault.

We can be hard on each other and we'll push each other, but we'll always be there for each other whenever we go through any major thing in our lives.

5 What do you do to take care of your voice?

I work with the same voice coach that I've worked with for the last 20 years. Technology has made it easier, so we can Skype and vocalise over the phone. It's important that I keep my voice strong, so I try to get as much sleep as possible, although that has not been easy because I'm a mother to a young child.

6 Does playing Elsa on Disney's Frozen (2013) make you the coolest mother to your son?

It goes both ways. My son always says that anything to do with princesses is not cool. But I overheard him talking to these other girls that he likes at school, where he was like: "Hey, my mum's Elsa. Would you like to meet her?"

7 Are you sick of hearing the song Let It Go on the radio yet?

Not at all. I've wanted to have a song on the radio my whole life, so that's an accomplishment that I am very proud of. I have worked very hard and so I don't take this lightly.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

As a great mother, daughter and friend. Someone who was always honest and authentic in everything that I did and for better or for worse, put her heart on her sleeve in her music and her work on stage.

•Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee

•Beaches premieres on Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514) on Wednesday at 9pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2017, with the headline 'Menzel walks in Midler's footsteps'. Print Edition | Subscribe