DIVA TALK: Catching Up with Tony Winner Idina Menzel
Question: I think that’s important in this business.
Menzel: It’s always come back. It always resurfaces in our lives, whether it was the five-year anniversary or doing the movie or now doing the Tonys and saying goodbye. It’s always come at a time when I need to get back in touch with that for myself, where I feel like I’m losing sight of what’s important. Like this summer, to remind myself that I’ve always wanted to go on my own tour with my own music and not be so nervous and worry about every thing and every note and every band member and every review. I’m doing what I love to do and what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. I just want to be able to appreciate that, truly appreciate it, and not just be able to say it. That’s really hard — the more successful you get, it’s harder, I find — the more [bad] things you read about yourself. [Laughs.]
Question: I think you have to never read anything on a chat board.
Menzel: Yeah. You gotta try and stay away from it. The projects I’ve been a part of are so important, especially to young audiences, that there’s just the responsibility and a gratefulness I feel for these specific projects. I’ve worked on other great shows, but Rent and Wicked so resonate with people and affected the way they think about themselves and how these young people are growing up and treat each other. Whether it’s about sexuality or about being the “green girl,” the person that doesn’t fit in, or whatever it is… I feel like, for some reason, I feel like I’m on that path.
Question: You’re so loved by the younger generation.
Menzel: I hope so. I feel it. I just got this amazing gift from my fans. They took my song “I Stand,” the first song on my album, and they all submitted these pictures and videos of them holding up posters saying “I Stand,” and the next cut would be the back of the posters saying what they stood for. It was everything from world peace to music in schools to getting a good pedicure. [Laughs.] I was beside myself. I never in a million years thought that the song would evoke something like that. I’m just really looking forward to getting out there and seeing them during the summer and doing our show and connecting with my fans. That’s really what it’s all about, performing for me, whether it be my own music or being on a Broadway stage or in front of a camera.
Question: Since this column is going to run Tony weekend, I just wanted to talk a little about your Tony experience and what you remember the most from the night you won the Tony.
Menzel: Honestly, I remember most the look on my husband [Taye Diggs]’s face. He was just so proud. I remember he had tears in his eyes. That morning I tried to take a yoga class to kind of get centered. I was really nervous. I hadn’t written a speech because I honestly didn’t think I was going to win. My agent wrote me an email that day. She wrote, “Please don’t be your self-deprecating self and not be prepared. Please write a speech. There’s a chance you could win.” I left yoga early because I couldn’t concentrate. [Laughs.] I went home and I just had a little meltdown. Taye was trying to take a nap before all of the craziness ensued. I lay down with him, and I remember just crying and literally snotting all over his bare chest. And I thought, “This is true love, you know?” [Laughs.] I said, “Honey, everybody’s telling me to write a speech, but I don’t want to because if I don’t win, I got my hopes up and I don’t want to get my hopes up.” He said, “Who cares? Let’s get our hopes up, and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.” So we spent a day of our hopes being up, and you can get over that. He said, “Who do you want to thank?” He took me through it, and we verbally went through my speech. He was so proud that night that when I won I actually hit all the points that he helped me with that morning. He said, “I don’t know if I could have done that under the nerves and the adrenaline and remembered everything.” That’s what I remember the most is him doing everything right that day. He let me be me and have my cry, and he was really supportive. The other thing I remember is when they were reading off the [nominees’] names and they read Donna [Murphy]’s name, I was smiling, and he leaned over into my ear and he said, “If they don’t read your name, the smile you have on your face now is perfect for when the camera hits you. Just keep that smile, it looks very good.” And I looked at him and I was like, “Like this?” and he was like, “Yeah, just keep that if you don’t win.” [Laughs.]
Question: Where do you keep your Tony?
Menzel: It’s in my living room on a shelf. Next to it is the Playbill [binder] that I think is even cooler, the thing they read your name from. It says the category and on the back your name and the seal that Renee Zellweger and Rob Marshall broke. That’s kind of cool that they’re next to each other.
Question: Do you think the Tony affected your career?
Menzel: Yeah, I think the industry gives you a couple of extra chances and new doors to walk through. Theatre is theatre — it only goes so far in L.A. I think, more than the Tony, to be honest, is the success of Wicked and how it’s exponentially gotten more and more palpable. Even by not being in it, it’s going on and on all over the world. I just meet celebrity after celebrity who says their kids are so touched by this and therefore they are touched by it. So, for that reason, I think it’s given me more prestige — more than the actual trophy is the magic and the potency of the show.
Question: What are your thoughts about returning to the stage at this point?
Menzel: I’m dying to. I’m trying to find the right project. I’m really proud of the fact that I’ve been able to do original characters. Not that if the right revival came up I wouldn’t be interested, but I do feel it’s important to encourage new musicals and new stories and not just recycle hit movies. As great as some of those may be, I’m trying to find some interesting new source material and meeting with people that I love in that part of the business and kind of brainstorming with them. There’s nothing to really speak of yet, but that’s sort of where my head is.