Idina Menzel has, in many ways, been a star since her Broadway debut in 1995 as Maureen in the original cast of "Rent." Since then, the theater community in both Manhattan and around the world has seen her as a celebrity.
But there's famous, and then there's "Let It Go," the runaway smash hit from the Disney film "Frozen," famous. The former allowed her to get roles on television shows like "Glee," to duet with Ray Charles and to perform at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The latter helped her sell out two performances at the world-famous Nippon Budokan in Tokyo.
"It's been kind of surreal, to go to all of these countries and fill all these venues I never I thought I could fill," she says.
Menzel took a few minutes to speak to amNewYork at the beginning of her North American tour, which finds its way to the New York area on Friday.
Do you feel differently taking the stage for a solo show as opposed to being a part of a Broadway cast?
I've been doing both simultaneously for several years, so it feels great. I'm very comfortable with it. ... I love getting up there all by myself. I can go at my own tempo, I can take my time, I can go off script -- there is no script! -- and I really enjoy it.
Your set lists involve a lot of curation, both of material you've sung on Broadway and of tunes from the pop-culture sphere. What makes a great song?
For me, it's lyrics and melody. The ones that really strike a chord with me are the ones I wish I wrote myself. They're so impactful to me that they feel like maybe they came from me even though clearly they did not. Everyone has different songs that they respond to, but for me it's lyrics and melody.
What will surprise your theater fans the most about your solo show?
I can only go on what people tell me, but I think that I'm getting really good at making the venue, no matter how big, feel like our living room, like we're all hanging out together. Maintaining that intimacy -- I think that's really hard to do. I don't know if that's because of my willingness to be spontaneous, that people feel like they're getting a special show every night that isn't just formulated?
What do you think about the use of cellphones in theaters?
At first it bothered me a lot, but now I'm becoming immune to it, because otherwise it will ruin my enjoyment of my show if I'm worrying about it. The only time it affects me is when it's dangerous, like flashing. I find that rude, and I don't think people even notice that we can see the light on the whole time. ... I'm sure that years ago there were people who heckled, or had too much to drink and just screamed. Each [generation] has their own version of people misbehaving in the theater.
So, are you sick of "Let It Go" yet?
No. I'm not at all. But I'm not allowed to sing it in my house. My sons can't stand it when mommy sings, and especially that song. ... But what I do get are lots of letters from people who love it and friends of friends singing the song. It's truly a gift.
If you go: Idina Menzel performs at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater at 8 p.m. on Friday, 1000 Ocean Parkway, Wantagh, 516-221-1000, sold out.