Off-the-charts success hasn’t changed Idina Menzel – but it has altered her set list a bit.
The Broadway star, whose voice became ubiquitous thanks to “Let It Go,” the massive hit Menzel recorded for the smash Disney soundtrack “Frozen,” is still the same; the 44-year-old remains laidback and open. Her audience, however, has grown exponentially and is much younger than it’s ever been, so a few modifications in her concert are necessary.
“I’m trying not to let it impact the show that much,” Menzel says while calling from Hartford, Conn. “Between ‘Rent’ and ‘Wicked’ – even ‘Glee’ and now ‘Frozen,’ I’ve always had to figure out how to negotiate, navigate around a wide demographic.”
Menzel is no overnight sensation. It’s been a steady climb for the singer and actress, who received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in “Rent” nearly 20 years ago and won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in “Wicked” in 2004.
Menzel says she enjoys the Great White Way, but always wanted more.
“You want to go as far as you can, and so much has happened with my career,” she says. “I’ve been very fortunate with what has come my way. I’ve recorded a number of songs and it’s been a great ride.”
‘I curse, I swear’
Menzel has an abundance of tunes to choose from when she performs Wednesday at the Red Hat Amphitheater in Raleigh. “Most of the songs are from shows that I’ve been in,” Menzel says. “And then there is the other music I want to explore. It’s funny, although ‘Let It Go’ is my only hit radio song of my career, I sort of consider songs like (‘Wicked’s’) ‘Defying Gravity’ and songs from ‘Rent’ to be my other hit songs.”
And now when Menzel performs, she has a new audience largely comprised of prepubescent girls clad in their Disney finery.
“I’m ... up there on stage and I curse, I swear about something and then I realize that’s a mom in the front row with her little 8-year-old daughter in an Elsa costume,” Menzel says. “But I have to be myself, too. That’s a challenging thing ... how I reconcile all of that.”
‘Let it Go’ will happen
Menzel can keep it relatively simple in terms of apparel, and she will pick her songs of choice, but there is no way she will leave the venue without performing “Let It Go.”
“There’s no doubt about that,” Menzel says. “I love the song.”
But Menzel never thought “Let It Go” would become one of the most popular tunes of this era.
“I knew it was a beautiful song, but I had no idea that it would become the phenomenon it has become,” she says. “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. 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.”
More than ‘Frozen’
Menzel has been plenty extraordinary well before “Frozen” hit the world. “I’ve accomplished a lot over the years, but it’s about working hard,” Menzel says. “That’s how things have happened for me. Good things have happened, but you have to work hard in life to get to a certain place. I don’t regret all of the work I’ve done for a minute. My career has been so amazing and it’s hitting another level now.”
And she hasn’t lost a bit of that impressive work ethic. Prior to the tour, Menzel started on her next album.
Menzel is also working on a television project produced by Ellen DeGeneres dubbed “Happy Time,” playing a woman in the public eye who doesn’t want to pretend she’s happy all of the time.
“It’s a new challenge that I’m excited about. You have to keep pushing yourself.”