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Idina Menzel on How Her New Broadway Musical Reflects Her Life and Staying “In the Moment”

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Is there anyone hotter than Idina Menzel at the moment? She had a starring role in Disney’s Frozen, which is the second highest-grossing animated movie worldwide (and still has a chance of overtaking Toy Story 3 to become #1), her new musical on Broadway, If/Then, is set to open on Sunday after very financially successful weeks in previews, and because of John Travolta, everyone in America who didn’t know who she was knows her now. Not bad for an actress who started her career in a little off-Broadway musical called Rent (you might have heard of that one). In fact, If/Then actually reunites Menzel with her Rent co-star Anthony Rapp and Rent director Michael Freif.

In an interview with USA Today, Menzel talks about the changes in her personal life since she was last on Broadway and how they are similar to the plot of If/Then and how she manages to stay “in the moment” despite her massive success.

The plot of If/Then thematically reflects some of the changes in Menzel’s personal life since she was last on Broadway in Wicked, which she left in January 2005. However, she confesses that if the plot mirrored her life too closely it would be too emotionally draining to perform. She explains, “If I just used all of my own life for the show, eight times a week, I’d want to kill myself. You have to know how to pace yourself, and to pull from different places. Luckily, the story here is so well-written that I can use a lot of what’s right in front of me, and not leave feeling completely drained each time.”

Naturally, working with her Rent collaborators and Next to Normal authors Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey made the return to Broadway a bit more comfortable. Menzel says, “It was important to me to be in an original piece, as I always support original material. And I would have worked with this team, frankly, if they had handed me the phone book. It’s good to try to surround yourself with people you know are smarter than you, and who are going to challenge you.”

Another change in Menzel’s life since her last Broadway role is that she is now a mother to a four year-old son. Though doing a Broadway musical means she is around for him, motherhood presents its own challenges. She explains, “I have taken my kid on the road with me, on a tour bus. But now I’m also getting him to school in the morning, and dealing with his coming home with colds, which could get me sick. But nothing is more important than my child, and it gives you perspective. Actors can be self-absorbed, but when you have less time, you have to be result-oriented. You have to always be in the moment.”

She took a similar approach to her performance of “Let It Go” at the Oscars last month. Though the live performance on national TV was nerve-wracking, Menzel says that she didn’t want to”miss” the moment. She says, “I really wanted to be present. I brought my sister, and she helped me stay calm and grounded. Sometimes your best performances can be like out-of-body experiences, but this time I wanted to remember everything.”

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