Idina Menzel reached superstardom on Broadway with her Tony Award-winning performance as Elphaba, the misunderstood green girl, in the blockbuster Wicked and in her Tony-nominated role as Maureen in the revolutionary musical Rent. Her other credits include two Drama Desk nominations for her roles in The Wild Party and See What I Wanna See at The Public Theatre. Menzel has also appeared on Broadway in Funny Girl and Off-Broadway in The Vagina Monologues, the 2011 Encores! and the 2004 Actors' Fund Hair concerts. In 2006, she opened and reprised her starring role in Wicked on the West End.
Her film credits include starring roles in the Disney romantic fable, Enchanted, Rent and Robert Towne's Ask The Dust. She has also guest starred on FOX's hit television series Glee, as Shelby Corcoran, Rachel's biological mother. The multi-talented actress recently chatted with BWW about her upcoming London concert tour as well as a possible return to Broadway.
Last year you performed at London's grand Royal Albert Hall while this year you'll return to play smaller, more intimate venues. Do you have a preference?
Well Royal Albert Hall is a very special place. To come to London, which is one of my most favorite cities in the whole world, and to play there was a real honor and milestone for me. It's very grand and very beautiful. This will be seven shows at smaller theaters, which can be just as much fun because it's more intimate and it's sort of like doing a week at the West End. It's really like apples and oranges and I am equally excited by both situations.
I understand you'll be performing some new material in the upcoming shows.
Yeah, I'm always changing it up because I'm perpetually touring so I want to keep things fresh. I changed a bunch of things and kept some of the staples, but I try to keep it moving and put in some new songs that I'm excited about. And some new arrangements.
Do you find there are differences between U.S. and British audiences?
You know I always think about that. When I lived in London when I did Wicked there, everyone told me the audiences might be much more reserved, but I found it was completely the opposite. They jumped to their feet sooner, even more enthusiastically than the New York audiences did and they were just as warm and as enthusiastic and supportive as New York. So it was really a pleasant surprise for me. Especially when you're away from home, to have people be so supportive of you is almost more impactful for me because you can't believe that you're across an ocean and people know about you and care about you.
Your recent 'Barefoot at the Symphony' tour featured the legendary composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch. In an interview with BroadwayWorld last year you shared that you learned so much from working with him. What are the most important things he taught you?
The most significant thing about my professional relationship with Marvin was the license he gave me to really just be myself. Because I was constantly performing with these big symphonies and orchestras and I would occasionally second guess myself as to how broad and how formal I had to be to sort of fit in with the surroundings. And he always encouraged me to just be myself and just because there was a huge orchestra behind me didn't mean that I couldn't be as intimate or as crass or as personable with the audience. He always made me feel that what I was doing was okay.
Will there be a tribute to him in your shows?
Yes, there will be.
What are some of the things that inspire you as a songwriter?
I would say just daily life and trying to sort out what I'm experiencing at a given time. A lot of soul searching... it's hard to explain. I actually haven't been in songwriting mode lately, I'm wearing a different hat - I'm in performance mode. I feel like I'm out of touch with that a little bit. Perhaps exploring an emotion or an experience that I'm not really as comfortable talking about as I am writing about it.
Speaking of all the different hats you wear, are all the aspects of your career equally important to you?
Yes, they are all equally as important. Having so many different sides of the spectrum gives me balance. Performing live on stage is such a community, whether it's my musicians or a cast of a show that I'm in. And then when you're in the studio or on set, it's a much more solitary experience. Both can serve me at different times in my life. And when I go back and forth from one to the other it helps me appreciate all of them much better.