Idina Menzel talks about how ‘Frozen’ and John Travolta changed her life
Idina Menzel is far from a typical pop singer. Her background is on Broadway as the star of musicals such as “Rent” and “Wicked.” Mainstream fans got to know her face from a stint on the hit TV series “Glee.”
And while she’s released a handful of pop-oriented albums in recent years, for her biggest hit single she was animated – literally the hand-drawn and computer-generated Disney princess Elsa – singing “Let It Go” and other numbers from Disney’s “Frozen.”
Even John Travolta eventually learned her name, though it took him two trips to the Academy Awards to figure it out.
So when Menzel plays the Hollywood Bowl on Saturday fans will get a little bit of all of the above, which the 44-year-old singer says by phone after a concert recently is something with which this year’s world tour helped her get comfortable.
“I gave myself license to do whatever I felt like,” Menzel says from the back of her tour bus in Ohio. “Because the success of ‘Let It Go’ did not abide by any rules.
“A song in an animated movie and it gets played on pop stations? A huge pop hit? Once that happened in my life I went, ‘You know what? I’m going to stop trying to figure out the trends of what I’m supposed to be doing, stop chasing things and just do what I like.’
“If you have a great arranger and great arrangements it sort of ties everything together. Radiohead you can do. Cole Porter, you can do that, too.”
The world tour this year is her biggest outing after the success of “Let It Go” and “Frozen,” and has taken her from Japan and South Korea to the United Kingdom and all across the United States.
“It’s been, I have to say, life-changing,” Menzel says. “I’ve been on tour a lot in my life, but this feels like everything is clicking. The crowd, the venues that I’m playing, they’re bigger, but we’re still able to maintain an intimacy.”
Audiences are different now, too, she says.
“It’s little girls and boys with their parents,” Menzel says. “Maybe their parents used to be ‘Rent’-heads who are now older and have had kids. There’s the theater community, the people who’ve got to see ‘Rent’ and ‘Wicked’ and my last show [“If/Then”]. There’s a huge gay community. It’s everybody.”
Initially, she says she wasn’t sure how those disparate crowds would blend.
“I was concerned a little bit about that and being true to myself and not offending everybody,” Menzel says. “But you know what? I’m 44 years old. I can’t get up on stage and just play to the 12-year-olds.”
And it’s worked, she says, reminding her in a way of how singer Bette Midler always incorporates different aspects of her musical personality into a single show.
“That’s what’s been so liberating,” Menzel says. “The acceptance. It feels like everyone accepts all of these parts of me that I have been nurturing for a long, long time and wasn’t sure how to tie them all up in the same package. I stressed about that for a long time, and I don’t care anymore. Not with a blasé attitude.
“For lack of a better term, you have to let it go.”
Her concert at the Hollywood Bowl is her debut there in more ways than just performance.
“I’ve never seen anything there,” Menzel says. “I was supposed to go so many times with a bunch of friends but it never worked out. So it will just be a virginal experience.”
Her debut on the Academy Awards in 2014 was fine as far as her performance of “Let It Go,” which moments later won the Oscar for best song. Her introduction by Travolta? Not so much, as the actor opened his mouth to say Idina Manzel and came out with something along the lines of Adele Dazeem, which in the age of social media turned instantly into a bit of viral infamy.
A year later, at the most recent Oscar show, Travolta and Menzel appeared on stage together and all was made right, though Menzel says it was never a bad thing for her public profile.
“I think it was the best mistake that could have happened to me,” she says. “It broadened my profile but even more than that it made me feel great, because all of the fans who had been with me from early days, in more of my niche career, were so angry about the whole situation for me that they showed their love.
“I felt really loved by everyone erupting in this kind of response: ‘How could they mispronounce her name, don’t they know who she is?’ After you think, ‘Oh my God, he messed up my name, then all these good things happen.”
Asked if she’s hoping to see Travolta at the Hollywood Bowl, maybe leave tickets for him at will-call, Menzel laughs and says maybe she will.
“I have his email, we talk from time to time,” she says. “I’ll email him – he should come!”