Broadway icon Idina Menzel has forged her career playing strong and sensational females, from Maureen in the original cast of RENT to Princess Elsa in Frozen. The woman who taught a generation of young people to Let It Go is currently on tour, with upcoming concerts in Montreal and Toronto. The Grammy winner talks about the secrets to her success, including why it's okay to miss a high note every now and then.
Dare to dream
There have been a couple of times in my career where I've been really looking forward to something and really wishing for it badly and I'd feel like I was too afraid to hope for it, because I don't want to be let down. Three weeks before I won the Tony [for Best Actress in Wicked in 2004], my mother asked me if I had thought about a speech. I said, "No – I don't want to think about that, I don't want to get my hopes up." She told me, "Why not enjoy fantasizing about the possible success? If you don't win, you'll be sad, but you'll get over it. If you don't let yourself hope for things, then you're always living in fear. I think you need to trust that you're strong enough to handle disappointment, and enjoy the good times."
Let it Go
The commonality between the women [that I have played] is that they're really powerful, but they're also very vulnerable. I've sometimes been afraid of my own power. As women, we're told that having success can be alienating to the people around us – we're thought of as scary. It's something I've dealt with my whole life. Even as a young person I had this very strong voice and I worried that girls weren't going to like me because I got the best roles in the school play. That's one thing that's so great about Let It Go [the song from Frozen]: I get to sing it every night when I'm touring, so I get to remind myself that you can't hide the gift. The characters I've played have learned to embrace the power. Deep down I feel like the universe has sort of given me those characters to teach me things that I needed to learn and to build my own confidence.
It's not just the high notes
Having my son on tour with me gives me some perspective. I used to be extremely disciplined and ritualistic. I still do my best, but there's only so much you can do when your little boy wakes up with jet lag because you've taken him from the Philippines to Japan. I'm surrounded by kid germs. I've been sick all the time on this tour, and sometimes it's just "okay, tonight I'm going to do the best that I can do." Great singing is not about being perfect. A lot of people in the theatre forget that. They think it's about hitting everything perfectly and holding these amazing notes. There's so much more to a great voice – the personality, the character, the texture, and really, the imperfections.
This interview has been edited and condensed by Courtney Shea.