BWW Interview: Broadway Superstar Idina Menzel Dishes on All Things HOLIDAY WISHES, World Tour & More!
Tony Award-winning singer/actor Idina Menzel is in the midst of a busy holiday season, leading Broadway's IF/THEN and promoting her new Christmas album, titled 'Holiday Wishes.' The album, released on October 14th, was produced by Grammy Award-winner Walter Afanasieff (Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey) and features such classic favorites as "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," as well as Joni Mitchell's Christmas-themed "River," one of Menzel's favorites. To purchase the albuum today, CLICK HERE!
Menzel took the time out of her busy schedule to chat with BroadwayWorld about 'Holiday Wishes', her upcoming world tour, life at IF/THEN, and so much more. Check out the full interview below!
To say that you're having a busy month I think is an understatement - I feel like I see you on TV every other day and you're obviously still on Broadway eight times a week. How are you keeping up with it all?
I'm keeping up! Some days I'm keeping up better than other days, but I'm doing what I love to do! I know that this kind of success can be fleeting, so I'm enjoying the moment and making sure that I carve out enough time for my son. The rest is history!
'Holiday Wishes' broke into the Billboard Top 10 this week! I'd imagine that makes you very proud!
Yes! I'm so excited about the success of it! I had a wonderful time making the album. And making a Christmas album in the middle of 95 degree weather in July was interesting! But I think that we found the holiday spirit. Doing eight shows a week may sound like a crazy schedule, but there's something wonderful about having the job to go to everyday to keep me focused. I don't have the option of over-thinking things too much. So I just went in and sang in the studio and trusted the people I was working with. It's probably the best time I've ever had, making this album.
Why a Christmas album? What made you decide that this would be your next step?
People give you a hard time because you're Jewish- they say, "Why a Christmas album?" But some of the greatest Christmas songs have been written by Jews. Some of our greatest Jewish singers have done Christmas albums. For me, it's about the holidays.
Is there a song on the album that is your favorite?
I'm especially proud of an original song that I co-wrote called "December Prayer." That's a song that I wrote to encompass everyone- to include everyone no matter what their faith or what they believe. It's about finding some kind of solace or peace in your heart. That's my wish for the holidays.
You just announced your world tour, which we are so excited about! It wasn't that long ago that you did Barefoot at the Symphony- did you learn anything from that experience that you'll be taking with you on the road this time around?
Oh I learned something every time I stepped foot on stage! I learned how to embrace mistakes and how making mistakes makes you more vulnerable and open to your audience. I'm not as afraid to be onstage anymore, because I know that if something goes wrong, as long as I stay true to myself in the moment the audience will be with me. Maybe they'll get to see a side of me that they hadn't known. I think that's what's most important about live performing and going on tour- making sure that your audience has a window into your soul. It's not just about singing great notes. It's about connecting with them.
And this one is significantly bigger than your last one, right?
Well I'll cross my fingers! Hopefully tickets sell! It's nice to have a song like "Let It Go" to push things along. There's nothing that I love more than live performance, so I'm very eager to get out there, do my thing, and see the fans.
IF/THEN is still going strong at the Richard Rodgers, and you've now been playing the role for about a year if you include the DC run. Do you think that your view on the character or the way you portray her has changed a lot since then?
Oh yes, I think that happens with any character. What's wonderful about having a long run is that you can find so many levels and delve into your character in ways that you might not be able to do in a three month-run. And there are positives and negatives to that- you can over-think things because you do them eight times a week. I like it though. I find that I discover something new and then I want to kick myself for not doing it that way in the beginning. It's the gift and the curse of doing live theatre.
I think the beautiful thing about the character and the play is the constant reminder that we all have the opportunity to wake up every day and start our lives over and take on a new path or direction. It's wonderful to have that canvas to paint on everyday, personally, professionally, and artistically.
In the past year you've become a household name, and I know that you had humble beginnings... do you even get a chance to stop and really reflect on how far you've come?
All the time! This whole year has been that type of thing. I think it's something that comes with age as well- the ability to appreciate and understand what it is that's happening. I think having a career filled with highs and lows and watching it ebb and flow, knowing that these things come and go. You have to enjoy it as it's happening. It helps to have a child for me. He keeps me in the moment. He gives me perspective and keeps my priorities straight.
I'm constantly having those moments of remembering trying to pay my rent by playing a bar mitzvah or a wedding. Or by singing on a cruise ship...The Spirit of New York! [Laughs] I had a reversible vest- black for waiting tables and red satin for performing. I always have those moments. Next summer I'm touring in Jones Beach, which is where I grew up seeing shows in Long Island. That is incredible! I feel really grateful for this kind of year, but more so for the people who have surrounded me. The IF/THEN cast has been an incredible support system and my second family. The people in my life who I work with, like my agent and my manager, I've been with them for years and years. It feels so good to all be in it together.
What's still on your bucket list?
I still want things but I feel pretty resolved where I am at this point in my life. I always want to keep challenging myself, and work with different people who will make me batter and teach me more about myself and about the world. The main thing that was eluding me was having some kind of crossover song. Keeping the integrity of being in the theatre and also being appreciated in the music side of things. "Let It Go" was accepted on such an intense level, and I think that was the one thing that was eluding me. I can count my lucky stars and sit in it and have fun with it and not be so ambitious!
Menzel's career has traversed stage, film, television, and music. She was most recently heard as Elsa in Disney's global box-office smash Frozen, in which she sings the film's Oscar-winning song "Let It Go." After Menzel's performance of the multi-platinum song at the 86th annual Academy Awards, she made history as the first person with both a Billboard Top 10 hit and a Tony Award for acting. Menzel currently stars as Elizabeth in the original Broadway production of If/Then.