- The Washington Times - Monday, July 17, 2017

Idina Menzel admits that she can’t be at 100 percent each and every night she performs for thousands of concertgoers. Whether it’s illness, exhaustion or the necessities of balancing a showbiz life with raising a 7-year-old, there are some nights when her voice will simply not reach its apex.

Fortunately, she has a very convenient — and very loud — backup in such instances: her audience.

“The good thing about having a couple of well-known songs is you just put the microphone out and the audience can sing along,” Miss Menzel told The Washington Times. “Especially with ‘Let It Go,’ I can just give it to a little girl, and she can hit the high notes.”

Miss Menzel — hopefully accompanied by the notes of her upper register — will be coming to the Modell Performing Arts Center in Baltimore Tuesday evening, where the Tony-winning star of “Rent,” “If/Then” and “Wicked” will perform tunes from her Broadway career, covers of other artists’ songs as well as her megahit “Let It Go” from the Disney film “Frozen.”

“I think it’s a really great combination of good songs, live performance, great musicianship [and] spontaneity,” the singer said, adding that every show is different and doesn’t proceed according to a strict set of musts.

“I’ve really grown accustomed to allowing things to change for [each] audience,” Miss Menzel said, adding she is prone to telling stories in between songs as the fancy catches her. “I feel good that people can come to the show and feel like [it’s] a show that only they’ve seen — that I’m not phoning it in in every city.”

When asked how her touring life has changed over the years, Miss Menzel candidly divides her life on the road into two distinct phases — pre- and post-child.

“It’s as black and white as that,” she said of having her 7-year-old son, Walker Nathaniel, along for the ride. “Now instead of enjoying some pizza and some aftershow [debriefing] with the band … they let me off to the ‘mommy bus,’” Miss Menzel said with a chuckle. “When he was little, he didn’t really get it. I think he’s starting to get an inkling [of] how cool his mom can be.”

Other than having a young child with her, her pre-show warmup routine remains as it always has. Miss Menzel has worked with vocal coach Tanya Travers for years, and still runs through her scales and vocal preparations prior to each night’s curtain call.

“I’m a little less hard on myself because, being a mom, there’s only so much I can do,” she said of adequate preparation. “And I know if [my son has] a cold and I’m sleeping next to him, probably it doesn’t fare well for me, but that’s just want you [have to] do.”

And in the grand tradition of show business, Miss Menzel said she performs no matter her state, whether it’s catching her son’s germs or mulling over whatever may be happening in her personal life.

“I can’t be perfect. There’s something about [knowing that] that takes the pressure off,” she said of not taking herself to task if each night’s show isn’t flawless.

Furthermore, whatever mistakes she might make on stage are amplified thanks to YouTube and social media, with the world’s armchair quarterbacks picking apart every performance with a fine-tooth comb — sometimes within moments of the notes escaping her throat.

“Everybody’s filming every single thing you do. It’s hard, but I think I’m getting a little better about not worrying about what people are saying,” Miss Menzel said of the Twittersphere critics.

Much more so than hitting every single note, she said, is the spirit a performer engenders in her audience and the collective levity that results.

“A great performance [is where] you’re being honest and authentic and you’re making yourself vulnerable,” Miss Menzel said. “I’ve surprised myself time and again where I felt I didn’t have it, and … I could see tears in [an audience member’s] eyes. I was like, ‘But I didn’t hit the high notes.’

“But I realized it doesn’t really matter.”

Among Miss Menzel’s many influences is Phil Collins, who once surprised the New Yorker by sending her a note during her “Wicked” run.

“He wrote me a really beautiful email telling me how much he enjoyed my performance, and so from that day we’ve always kind of remained buddies,” she said of the Genesis artist.

Miss Menzel said she was able to later provide encouragement to Mr. Collins from the audience in return. The English singer was at the to,e recovering from a back injury, which severely limited his onstage mobility.

“He came out with this cane to get through the whole show [but] he sang every note,” Miss Menzel said. “It sounded amazing. He was just right on top of everything.

She said she admires Mr. Collins’ resolve to keep his show on track despite his injury — and told him as such.

“It was really nice to talk to him about [how] he didn’t want to cancel the show,” she said.

Miss Menzel claims that no matter how large the venue she performs in — the Modell holds just under 3,000 — she is ever cognizant of seeking to continue engendering an intimacy with her fans.

“I feel like people in the audience can leave the show feeling like I let them into a window of my soul,” she said.

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