Idina Menzel keeps act fresh, only sometimes ‘Frozen’
If you haven’t heard of Idina Menzel, surely you have heard her.
The powerhouse singer and actress has starred in Disney’s “Frozen” (she was the voice of Queen Elsa and sang “Let It Go”) and has been in the original Broadway casts of “Rent”” and “Wicked.” Menzel also appeared in the musical TV series “Glee.”
But she also goes solo, with five albums and years of touring experience.
Menzel, 45, is returning to South Florida for a one-night concert Wednesday, May 24, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. She’ll bring new material as well as fan favorites to her show. She even plans to wear shoes this time while she sings and “stomps” across the stage.
We talked with the Broadway star about her growing popularity, life on tour and the advice she has received and given through the years.
Q: Since the movie “Frozen” came out in 2013, how do you approach performing for what is now a bigger fan base?
A: I don’t change anything. My goal is always to give as intimate and authentic performance as possible no matter how big the venue. So if the venues are getting bigger, I try to bring everyone in that much more.
Q: At what point in your career did you start realizing that people knew who you were?
A: My first big thing was in the original cast of “Rent.” You start walking around New York City having been in that show, and people start to recognize you. Having the audience swarm the backstage door waiting for your autograph is pretty powerful stuff.
Q: What kind of music challenges you?
A: It depends. There are certain musical theater writers who write really challenging melodies that you have to really focus, listen, study and learn. There are certain songs that aren’t that difficult melodically, but they’re very acrobatic and have high notes and require a lot of breath and don’t leave a lot of room for being sick and getting a cold. So anything is challenging as a singer when you’re not feeling that well.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve received on perusing a career in the arts?
A: To understand that who you are and what you have to offer is enough. You have to allow yourself to be the best that you can be. And another thing would be something I learned on my own: You have to be yourself, and the right thing will come to you. You may not get every job that comes your way, but the right one will at the right time.
Q: What was the inspiration for your new music?
A: A pretty tumultuous time in my life going on. I was going through a divorce (from actor-singer Taye Diggs), and that was really sad. I had a lot of emotions that I was grappling with, and then simultaneously my professional career was catapulted to a new level with “Frozen” and the Broadway show I was doing (“If/Then”). So I had this juxtaposition of two different lives going on, and it was very fiery, thrilling, dynamic, and sad all at one time. So it was a good time to get in the studio and just write about that.
Q: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of touring?
A: My least favorite part of touring is just the grind. It’s worrying about my health and getting enough sleep and wanting to keep my voice strong for every show and give the best show possible. I travel with my [7-year-old] son the majority of the time. That’s not easy to do because he’s my priority. He wakes up early and he needs things. When he’s not there, I can lay in bed and relax and get ready for the show. The most wonderful thing about it is the live performance. The adrenaline and the connection to the audience. The discovery of new things every night. The bonding and musicianship of my band.
Q: Do you still perform barefoot?
A: Occasionally. I’ve been stomping around in some very comfortable boots lately. So, we’ll see.
Q: What’s the best advice you have for someone who is just starting out in theater?
A: The right thing will come to you if you really train hard and work with great people. Keep learning and putting yourself out there. Get an understanding of what makes you really special, and not try to copy anybody else. That may come with a bunch of rejection, but someone will notice it at the right time. You will be rewarded for that.
Q: Who do you still keep in touch with from your career?
A: My cast from “Rent.” I’m still friends with a bunch of them. People from “Wicked.” And the “Frozen” cast — we always see each other a lot.
Q: How have your concerts changed throughout the years?
A: I change the music here and there, and I change the arrangements to things just to keep things feeling fresh, but I also recognize that people don’t want to hear certain songs changed too much. You want to hear it how you know it, and I respect that. I have to do a balancing act with putting my set list together and keeping it new, but also paying tribute to some great moments in my career.