By: Markos Papadatos, Contributing Editor
Tony-winning actress Idina Menzel chatted via a teleconference with this Greek-American journalist about her summer world tour, as well as her Jones Beach show in Wantagh, New York.
Regarding her summer tour, the “Wickedly talented” entertainer said, “What I am most proud of in the past with all my touring is my ability to give a very intimate performance, and for people to feel like they get to know me when they leave the venue. It is very important to me that even though I am perhaps on a different level and my profile has gotten bigger because of things like Frozen, that I am still able to connect with every single person in that audience, and that is challenging to do, the bigger the venues yet, but I think it is possible. If I continue to try to be really honest and authentic and allow for spontaneity and that I stay in the moment, then I can achieve that.”
Although “Let It Go” may be her only “hit radio song,” Menzel considers “Defying Gravity” and her songs from Rent to be her other hit songs. “If I can put the microphone out, and the audience can sing every word, then that’s my hit song,” she said. “I make sure I include songs that I think that people would really want to hear, and then I challenge myself and I pick other songs that I have always wanted to sing or do a new interpretation of. I might try a different original song here and there, and I might run that by an audience here or there.”
Speaking of “Let It Go,” Menzel was surprised by the impact that is has made. “I knew it was a beautiful song, but I had no idea that it would become the phenomenon it has become. What people don’t realize is that it’s wonderful to have a song that has heightened my profile, but the beautiful thing about it is that it speaks to me as a woman, and as a reminder for myself about the things that are important, and the things that I need to learn,” she explained. “For instance, the idea of not hiding the things that make us powerful, and those things that might set us apart, and make us extraordinary in the world.”
Menzel revealed that she is working on a new studio album. “I am in that process of being in the writing stages and recording with producers and songwriters that really inspire me. I feel creative and I am putting my heart out there and exploring different sounds. I am not limiting myself. I doing what I feel in my heart,” she said.
Thanks to her extensive Broadway experience, Menzel acknowledged that she is not afraid of “hard work.” “People in the theater are like athletes, especially singers. We have to train and stretch and build up our endurance, and be able to perform under all different kinds of circumstances. That is definitely a training ground for me,” she said. “I have high expectations for myself. I work with my voice teacher and I warm up, and I prepare days before, so that I don’t blow up my voice. I treat it like I am an athlete.”
When asked about her favorite and least favorite aspects of touring life, the esteemed thespian said, “My favorite part is seeing the world, but a lot of time I don’t get to see the cities that I am in. I enjoy bonding with my musicians and getting to know them, and becoming a family, similar to how I bond with my cast in theater. I like exploring the world with this build-in family,” she said. “The worst part is just being tired, and worrying about not being in your best voice, and coming down with a really bad cold.”
For Menzel, her live national anthem rendition at this year’s Super Bowl was the third most nerve-wrecking experience of her life. “That was definitely up there, but it came in third place. First place, went to singing for the president, and second place, went to singing for Barbra Streisand,” she said with a sweet laugh. “I had a really good outlook about the national anthem. I was excited to be there. I was a fan of Whitney Houston when I was a little girl, and she did the national anthem better than anybody ever, and I wanted to do that someday. I was really trying to stay in the moment. I was nervous and everything, but I did a good job that day, in trying to have fun with it. I was able to take it all in.”
On her decision to record a Christmas album last year, she said with a laugh, “Because I am Jewish, and every Jewish person wishes that they celebrated Christmas. It’s more fun.”
Menzel clarified, “There is a truth to that. Christmas music is the most beautiful music, and it has the most beautiful melodies ever written. We grow up hearing that music, and as a singer, I grew up hearing those songs. I wanted to record an album and get in the studio, but I was doing If/Then, so it wasn’t a time to write original music, but I was exploring the holidays in a new way. Ever since I had my son, it has been a much more joyful time, and I wanted to celebrate that, and I have been discovering it through his eyes, and it was just another extension of that.”
On July 17, Menzel will be headlining the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, and growing up in Syosset, it is an extra special venue for her. “It’s going to be a very special evening for me. I went to Jones Beach all the time as a kid, and I went to see a lot of concerts there as well. Even just thinking about it gets me emotional and excited. It is a beautiful place, and any time you are returning to your home town, it is all a little bit surreal,” she said.
Menzel noted that yet another milestone for her was playing New York’s Radio City Music Hall last June.
Most recently, Menzel starred in the critically-acclaimed Broadway musical production If/Then, which garnered rave reviews from fans and critics, and it featured the original cast recording, “Always Starting Over.”
Menzel noted that there is a slight difference between playing eight shows a week on Broadway vs. embarking on an international tour. “Honestly, you are still singing all the time. You need to really be strong, and keep your voice in good shape, and worry about your health, and get your sleep. Being in a play, the minute it starts, you go, and it’s like a runway train. Being in my own concert, I can take my time, and I can take a breath and I can stop and talk to somebody in the audience, and I can change the order of my set, so that is kind of fun. In my own concert, I am singing for two hours straight, and there is no cast or other character taking over. They both have their pros and cons,” she concluded.
Photo Credit: Robin Wong