Balancing her new “Undercover Boss” persona, Helen Gold, and rehearsals for Off-Broadway’s “Skintight,” Tony-winner Idina Menzel still manages to give back to her New York roots.
The Broadway star will return to the NYC stage Monday to host a karaoke benefit concert that’ll help provide funds for young girls in the city and beyond to partake in theater, dance and art classes through her Camp BroaderWay charity.
“When I was younger, I was lucky enough to go away to camp in the summers and I found it to be a real sanctuary, a place to escape my everyday life,” Menzel, who grew up on Long Island, says while on a quick break from rehearsals of the upcoming “Skintight” production.
Menzel’s A BroaderWay Foundation was founded in 2010 with her then-husband, actor Taye Diggs. Since then, it has helped give hundreds of girls from underserved communities an outlet of artistic expression.
“As I’ve gotten older, I realized how important it is that young women really have a place to find their true voice, and how the arts helped me mind my voice,” she adds.
Menzel’s sleepaway camp, based in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, started with 30 New York City-based high schoolers in 2011 and has grown to include more than 100 enrollees. A total of 165 New Yorkers have benefited from the program to date. Aside from the traditional campfire fun you’d expect, Menzel’s charity program gives the girls the chance to perform on a New York City stage at the end of each summer.
“We have two years [of campers] who have graduated already and they’re coming back as counselors,” Menzel explains. “We’re seeing them go to college and we’re trying to help them prepare for that, so there’s obviously so much support we need in order to keep it going.”
To raise funds to pay for the camp’s programs and scholarships, Menzel will host Monday’s charity karaoke concert at the PlayStation Theater from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. She’ll be joined by fellow Broadway stars, including cast members of “The Lion King,” “Frozen,” “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Hello, Dolly!”
The freestyle, open-to-the-public concert will also feature performances by a few rising stars Menzel befriended while filming her upcoming episode of “Undercover Boss: Celebrity Edition,” airing Friday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
Menzel donned a blond disguise to pass as Helen Gold, a dental receptionist from Louisville, Colorado, who wants to break into the theater business while filming the episode. She shadows women who are chasing a similar dream and have no idea they’re coaching a Tony winner.
“Once I got over sort of deceiving these young women I was discovering, I had a hard time deceiving them, but once I realized how great it was going to be, and the wonderful gift that ‘Undercover Boss’ was going to give them, then I felt better about it. It was a great experience. I’m still talking to the girls now and actually, two of them will perform at the fundraiser.”
The episode also sees Menzel undergo a significant physical facial transformation, slip into a chicken suit and try to disguise her voice while singing “poorly.”
“The chicken suit was easy!” she laughs. “It was the prosthetics that I got into every morning for three hours . . . the chicken suit was just like PJs, but every morning, I sat in the chair and they amped up my chin and my nose.”
As for trying to hide her voice, the actress says she had a little New York-themed inspiration.
“I was worried about getting discovered, but it was a blast,” she says. “I did a little bit of the ‘Saturday Night Live’ The Culps sketch with Ana Gasteyer. I kind of stole it from that.”