Idina Menzel on her new record, spontaneity in live shows, and her evolving audience
It’s rare to find a performer as prolific and humble as Idina Menzel. The Tony Award-winning icon has made a name for herself both on stage and on screen thanks to starring roles in Rent, Wicked, and most recently Disney’s smash animated feature Frozen.
Propelled to a household name thanks to Frozen, Menzel nevertheless remains as approachable and humble as ever, taking time to talk to GayRVA before her stop in Richmond this Friday, 5/19, in the midst of her 2017 world tour.
Menzel is no stranger to Richmond, touring through the city in her previous 2015 tour (read our review of that show here!). Attendees this time can expect a similar experience to last time, with some surprises peppered throughout.
“People can expect a really exciting, eclectic, intimate show with a kick-ass band and a really fun set list where they can expect to hear the songs they’re used to hearing but also some new surprises, some great new arrangements, and some few things from my latest album,” Menzel said.
When Menzel talks about surprises she’s not kidding: last tour saw her transitioning Frozen super hit ‘Let it Go’ into the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Give it Away,’ a music melding so unique it had to have been seen to truly believe.
“I woke up one morning, I dunno it was in my head. I thought “give it away, give it away, give it away, give it away now,” sounded very similar to “let it go, let it go, let it go.’ ,” said Menzel. “You’re on the road for a while and things occur with you when you’re jamming with the band and you just throw stuff in and have fun.”
Though having fun with live performances in a big part of Menzel’s magic, she also cites vulnerability and a connection to her audiences as cornerstones.
“In my opinion, what makes a live performance great is someone who isn’t afraid to make their self vulnerable,” said Menzel. “Someone who welcomes mistakes and spontaneity, someone that’s willing to reveal them self to their audience so their audience can really get to know them.”
Vulnerability also plays a role in Menzel’s music creation process, something clear from her self-titled album released this past October. Menzel opened up about the state of her life while she was getting the record together – while success was barking at her down, her personal life entered a new, challenging phase that undoubtedly impacted the release.
“Everything was on supercharge because my professional life was amazing, and so many exciting things were happening. My career was sort-of catapulted to another level with the success of Frozen and singing at The Oscars and the Super Bowl,” she said. “But simultaneously I was going through a divorce and all of what that entails, and all that emotion, guilt and sadness. So there were these two very opposing forces that gave me a lot write about.”
Though Frozen supercharged her career, it also brought some unexpected twists to her career. Menzel now had a fangroup of varying age groups, something she has accepted in stride.
“The truth is each big project I’ve been a part of–whether it be Rent or Wicked or Frozen–there have always been young people who connected with it,” she said. “Then those young people have now grown up and now have kids, so I’ve got parents with kids who are into Frozen but the parents know me from the days of Rent so I still sing that kind of music.”
“It’s a challenge I welcome, I’m proud of it, I’m proud of having such a huge demographic and audience, and being able to speak to so many different kinds of people,” said Menzel.
Menzel will perform in Richmond next Friday, May 19th at the Altria Theatre. This will be Menzel’s first performance in a month.