The Theater at MGM National Harbor
101 MGM National Ave.
Oxon Hill, Md.
Sunday, July 9
Idina Menzel is a household name (outside of the Travoltas that is), and is beloved by young and old alike.
After making her Broadway debut in “Rent,” she won a Tony Award for her performance as Elphaba in “Wicked,” a show that gave us “Defying Gravity”; and she’s the reigning queen of Disney, having voiced Elsa in “Frozen,” the movie that had the world singing “Let It Go.”
“Once a decade I have had a great project I have been lucky enough to be a part of and audiences stick with me,” says Menzel, who plays the MGM National Harbor this weekend.
Her vocal prowess is incredible and the performer is in much demand in theater, TV and film. She’s currently on a world tour and thinking about her next projects, which will include a sequel to “Frozen.” That’s one of the reasons more young people are showing up at her concerts.
“My audience is such a wide demographic and I love that,” Menzel says. “I used to have kids coming because they loved ‘Wicked’ and now many of them are older and that’s the nice thing about my journey, we kind of grow up together.”
Menzel, who played lesbian Maureen Johnson in the original Broadway production of “Rent,” as well as in the movie a decade later, recently penned a “love letter” to the LGBT community for Billboard, in which she wrote: “You are the courageous heroes who have showed the rest of us what it means to be true and honest and stand up for each other and to love that very thing about ourselves that might set us apart from others.”
She says she has long been inspired by her LGBT fan base and is honored to be considered something of a “gay icon” in the entertainment world, something she aspired to be when she was young.
“Just look at all the women that I’ve revered in my life, they’ve all been beloved by the gay community and I always knew when I was starting that if I wasn’t in with that club, then I hadn’t made it,” she says. “As soon as I felt like I was being included and appreciated and supported (by the LGBT community), it just really meant everything to me.”
It was while working on “Rent” when Menzel first started to notice the connection. She often received letters from kids struggling with their sexual orientation who thanked her for helping them be brave and come out by playing such a strong and empowered character as Maureen.
“Wicked,” “Frozen” and her most recent project, the Lifetime remake of Bette Midler classic “Beaches,” have all been embraced by the LGBT community who, like many, have been clamoring to see the singer in concert. In addition to her one-night-only performance at National Harbor, she plays the Model Performing Art Center at the Lyric in Baltimore on Tuesday, July 18.
The concerts will feature songs off her latest album, “idina” and of course she will sing many of the Broadway tunes for which she is known.
“I always try to shoot for an intimate performance. I’m going to do some music from the new album, but I’ll also do some of the music people will expect to hear and also some other covers,” she says. “It’s an eclectic evening. I have had the same musicians for a lot of years and we’re just having a blast and are comfortable and having fun. It’s been great.”
Those who have seen Menzel in concert before know that the singer likes to interact with her audience and usually chooses a lucky person from the crowd come up on stage and sing with her. And she makes sure to tell fun stories and play around between songs.
“There’s always audience participation,” she says. “I find the audiences who come to my shows are so supportive and enthusiastic and there’s a warm feeling back and forth so it’s easy to talk to them and make them part of the show.”
The week before the MGM show, Menzel will be concluding two weeks of concerts in Europe, which followed some tour dates in Asia. Rather than give the pat performer answer of enjoying touring because she gets to see the world, she admits it’s not always easy to see the sights because she’s too busy preparing for the shows.
“Honestly, what I love more about touring all over the world is this idea that it’s such an accomplishment,” she says. “I can go to Japan and people know my songs. It feels great to make new friends, to know I’ve worked really hard my whole life. I started out trying to get 10 people to show up to a club in Greenwich Village so to go to Asia or the UK and have people know who I am is a dream come true really.”