It seems an age since US actress Idina Menzel first rattled the rafters of the Apollo Victoria with the promise that no-one was going to bring her down, playing the green-skinned, misunderstood magic-user Elphaba in Wicked. The American performer, who found fame with her first professional theatre job playing Maureen in the original production of Rent, has since brought a solo show to the Royal Albert Hall, appeared in all-conquering teen TV singathon Glee, starred in Disney film Enchanted and sung for the Obamas… which has all kept her rather busy.
Now Menzel is back, supported by a 25-piece orchestra, for a week of concerts singing her favourite songs from musical theatre and pop alongside new material. But before she casts her spell over the West End once more, Menzel agreed to answer a few of our questions:
How do you choose the songs that make it into your concert?
So many ways. Sometimes they are anecdotal, sometimes they are nostalgic. Sometimes just great melodies. Sometimes I just want to challenge myself.
Do you prepare differently for a concert than for a musical?
Not so much. People often assume that being in character and being yourself on stage are very different. Not really. It’s the same common denominator. Vulnerability and transparency connect to an audience, but being vulnerable and transparent is scary. Both require the same risk.
What sparked your interest in performing?
I can’t remember. I have wanted to sing for as long as I can remember.
If you could create a fantasy production to star in, who would you cast, who would direct and what would it be?
It would be a brand new musical, fresh source material. I would love to work with Michael Grandage or Matthew Warchus, and star opposite Jude Law. Can he sing? Who cares! Maybe written by Peter Gabriel? Hmmm…
What do you consider your big break?
4th grade Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz at Baylis Elementary School.
How did working on Wicked London differ from working on Wicked New York?
I was more confident. I wasn’t worried about being fired all the time.
If you could have magic for a day, what would you do?
Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
I’m probably not as good a friend as I should be.
Do you have any advice for young actors?
Stay in school. Learn about things other than acting. Become a well rounded human being. I regret being too myopic and one dimensional.
What do you do when you’re not performing or rehearsing?
Smother my son with kisses.
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Family movie nights.
Who or what has inspired you?
My sister Cara has always inspired me. She is an incredible mother, teacher and human being.
What will always, without fail, bring a smile to your face?
My husband has this nerdy walk he does in a supermarket. It’s too hard to explain… it works every time.
What book, film or album would you recommend to a friend?
I’ve just finished The Art Of Fielding. Beautiful novel.
What could you not be without?
A steamy shower.
What would you choose as a last meal?
What ambitions would you like to fulfill?
I would love to learn how to sail.