Whether appearing in green makeup or barefoot, every time Idina Menzel takes the stage her goal is the same.
Asked about the difference between singing in concerts versus in character, the star of Rent and Wicked said “Any time you’re performing on stage it’s similar.
“Even when you’re in character, there’s no hiding when you’re performing,” she told The Beat.
“You’re exposing and making yourself vulnerable. There’s a risk you take in order to achieve transparency, to make people feel something.
“You do that with makeup or without.”
Presumably she was speaking specifically of green makeup, which she wore for years on Broadway and in London as Elphaba in Wicked.
Menzel also originated the role of Maureen in Rent on Broadway. Both roles earned her Tony nominations, the former for Best Actress, which she won.
But it’s a smaller role – a recurring part on the hit TV show Glee as Shelby Corcoran, Rachel’s biological mother – that has taken her notoriety to new heights.
‘I get recognized more now as Elphaba in public because of Glee,” she said with a laugh. “Fans are fans, but Glee is a totally different platform.”
But her stage roles, regardless of how people come to know them, have proven staying power.
“Are you kidding?” she answered when asked if it’s a challenge to have such an iconic role as Elphaba as part of your resume. “It’s the greatest career/professional gift I could have.
“(Wicked is) so beautiful to me, not just the success but what it represents. And the longer it runs, the more generations of kids it connects with.”
Besides, she said, “I get to sing the music on my concerts.”
For the past two years, Menzel has been touring the world performing with orchestras, something she was initially hesitant to do.
“I didn’t want it to overwhelm me, trying to balance being as beautiful and thrilling as the music behind me with keeping the intimacy and connection with the audience,” she explained.
In the end, she found it “completely doable,” working her way into an imaginative set that combines songs from her stage roles, popular songs from Cole Porter to Sting to Lady Gaga, and songbook classics from Rogers and Hart to Jimmy Webb.
Her performance last November in Toronto was recorded and released as Idina Menzel Live: Barefoot at the Symphony, both on CD and as a PBS special.
The term “barefoot” is not just a literary device, either. Menzel discovered that traveling with her family, in particular a young son, lessened her energy and desire to “get on stage wearing three-inch heels.”
So underneath those exquisite gowns? Yep, “I’m ‘Shoeless Joe.’ ”
Menzel told The Beat she has modified her set with new material since the recording, and that Columbus audiences can expect some surprises in her set list.
And would she care to tip us off on any of those surprises?