Idina Menzel gets candid about touring, being a role model

In the span of a decade, Idina Menzel soared from vaunted Broadway player to international superstar.

Her Tony-winning turn as the misunderstood Elphaba in “Wicked” in 2003 transformed her into a hero to scores of teenage girls. She continued her active theater career, including her 2013 Tony-nominated performance in Broadway’s “If/Then,” but playing Elsa in the animated “Frozen” in 2013 catapulted her to a new level of fame.

That the movie’s signature song, the numerously awarded “Let It Go,” because the ubiquitous empowerment anthem of that year only added to Menzel-mania.

But the New York-bred singer, 46, has always maintained a steady music career – going back to 1998’s Lilith Fair – and last fall released her fifth solo album, simply called, “Idina.”

She’s been touring the globe since March to support the release and will visit Atlanta Saturday with a performance at the Fox Theatre.

Menzel will perform originals, Broadway tunes and some of her favorite cover songs.

Next year, Menzel will return to New York for the off-Broadway play, “Skintight.” But after this tour wraps in September, she plans to “focus on my fiancé (Aaron Lohr) and my son (Walker, 7) and be in this new home that we built together and be a mom and chill out.”

Menzel, always frank and funny, called recently from that new home in Encino, Calif., to discuss life on the road, what to expect from her show and being a role model.

Q: You started this tour in March in Japan. Considering how much of your career has been spent performing in one place over an extended amount of time, do you enjoy the road?

A: I used to think wow, it would be amazing to travel and see the world through your music. I feel like I don’t see enough, and I have to take care of myself and sleep. I see a lot of zoos and children’s musicians, and even when I don’t have (my son with me), I sleep away the day at the hotel. I do a two-hour show and I sing every note, so you don’t have a lot of a life. The life is those two hours onstage that reinvigorates and refuels me for the next one. All of the stuff around it has diminished for me.

Now, when you get to be a big shot (laughs) you get your own bus. But I want to be with my guys in the band, so sometimes if my son is sleeping, I’ll get on the band bus for a couple of hours and do pizza and wine with them. I wouldn’t change a thing. I love it all, but it’s hard work. Just being a singer is hard; it’s psychological. You wake up and test your voice. Is it going to be a fun show, or am I going to hit a bad note?

Q: How big is the band?

A: Nine pieces. Instead of picking up local players, I added three women. We needed more female energy. They have beautiful voices, and it’s brought a dynamic that’s been really exciting for my guys, too. It’s just different than an orchestra; we all travel together.

Menzel plans to take some time off this fall to spend with her fiance and son before heading to Off-Broadway in 2018.

Q: Last time you were here, you played Chastain. This time you’re going indoors at the Fox. Do you feel as if you can keep the audience’s attention better in a theater than outdoor shows where eating and socializing is the priority?

A: I used to be afraid of the outdoor shows and felt that the energy dispersed. There are lawns and people are eating, and it’s a different summer hang as opposed to being in a theater and it’s dark. Maybe I can pat myself on the back a little, but I feel like I’ve had some amazing outdoor performances where the wind was blowing and people are engaged and they’re listening and you can hear everything. As long as I can’t hear the drunk people on the lawn all the way in the back (laughs).

Q: You have some great covers in your set list, and it’s cool that you’re pairing your own “Cake” with “Black Dog.” Did Led Zeppelin inspire the guitar in that song?

A: When we were writing “Cake,” my producer was messing around with the track and we felt like it was a Zeppelin vibe, so I kept that in mind for when I did the live show and I tried to find that right Zeppelin song. Me being a storyteller from the theater, I need to connect and “Black Dog” is a really sexy tune.

Q: You’ve talked about how “Let It Go” made you a role model – whether you wanted it or not – to a lot of little girls. But do you think with a song like “Queen of Swords” you’ve been able to become that empowered female symbol for an older demographic?

A: It’s a wide variety of people. What I’m most proud of in my career is there are lots of young people and their moms, as well as a big gay following. I try to not throw the f-bombs around as much, or I’ll say, “It’s time to put on the earmuffs (on the kids in the audience),” because I’m going to tell a story that it’s a little inappropriate. I just want to do right by everybody. I know I’m a role model; I take it seriously. But I’m me.

Follow the AJC Music Scene on Facebook and Twitter.


Idina Menzel

8 p.m. July 22. $46.50-$151.50. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta. 1-855-285-8499,

About the Author

Melissa Ruggieri
Melissa Ruggieri
Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff writer Melissa Ruggieri covers music and entertainment news for Atlanta Music Scene blog on, and she remembers...