Idina Menzel Talks 'Frozen 2' Ahead of 'Skintight' at L.A.'s Geffen Playhouse

Chris Whitaker
Idina Menzel in 'Skintight'

The 'Wicked' Tony winner recalls breaking her ribs during her penultimate performance, John Travolta mangling her name at the Oscars and teases her Disney sequel.

Yes, Idina Menzel can belt it out, as she did when she froze Broadway audiences in their seats as Elphaba, the Wicked Witch in Wicked. But then she melted them again as the voice of Elsa in Frozen, breaking into the soundtrack of our lives with the movie's hit song, "Let It Go."

She's conjuring a different set of emotions now at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse in Skintight, playwright Joshua Harmon's acerbic look at aging, which opens Thursday and plays through Oct. 12. But not only will Menzel appear on the stage in Westwood this fall, she'll also hit the screen in Disney's hotly anticipated Frozen 2 (Nov. 22) as well as the Safdie brothers' Uncut Gems (Dec. 25), co-starring Adam Sandler in a crime drama set in New York's diamond district.

She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about her busy slate, acting opposite Sandler and the unique hold "Let It Go" has on fans — and on her.

Fans generally expect to hear you sing, but not in this play.

It was a lesson that I had to learn for myself that I didn't need to hide behind my voice and that my singing voice is not my identity, that my soul and the essence of who I am and how you choose to express that as an artist is really what makes your work palpable and resonant, whether you're singing music or saying dialogue. And I've been very insecure about that in the past and that's why doing a play like this does so much for my self-esteem, because I really feel like I'm good in the show.

Thematically, the play pits inner against outer beauty.

Someone who sees me for who I am inside is more important. But I also know my husband thinks I'm really hot and attractive no matter what age I am, and that's important as well. I think the core of it is what do we need in our lives to make us feel alive? And that can be different for different people.

 
Can you ever let go of "Let It Go"?
 
"Let It Go" — as much as it might be annoying to a lot of moms out there, and dads — it’s one of the great gifts of my career. It’s given me a way of communicating and connecting with young people that brings me so much joy. And also, it's a reminder to a woman in her 40s who has to be a role model to young people to practice what you preach. 

You’ll be singing in the sequel, Frozen 2, when you return as Elsa. Is "Into the Unknown" the next "Let It Go"?

"Into the Unknown," and then there’s another song called "Show Yourself," which is pretty spectacular as well. Everyone always asks is it the next "Let it Go"? That's lightning in a bottle. All I know is this music really moved me when I heard it, and it moved me more when I was interpreting it.

Do the film's sisters go on a quest to find their origins?

Elsa has a calling. She's hearing this voice that’s sort of calling her into the unknown. And it's kind of a quest to unveil some secrets of their past, but even more so to understand who she is and why she has the power she does, and what her purpose is in the world. 

How gratifying is it to play a princess who isn't reliant on a prince?

I was just with [Frozen co-star] Kristen Bell, and we get a lot of satisfaction out of it, kind of like Wicked as well, where we're two female leads. We don't need romantic love, necessarily, to tell us who we are and complete us. It's about family and loyalty and supporting people to be their pure authentic selves. That's true love, that's unconditional love. 

I know you two have spoken since, but not too much unconditional love between you and John Travolta at the 2014 Oscars.

I was about to perform in front of all of Hollywood and this was, like, one of the biggest nights in my career. I was wearing really funny shoes under my gown so I could feel grounded and strong and not in silly high heels. And I'd done all of this meditation and everything to get myself in the right mind frame. And then he introduced me as he did and yeah, it took me a minute, but I didn't have a minute. I had eight seconds to get my act together as the introduction of "Let It Go" started and I had to just get out there and focus. So, it was definitely an exercise in concentration and letting the small stuff roll off. 

You have Uncut Gems, with Adam Sandler, another non-singing role, coming later this season.

It's wonderful to play opposite Adam, especially when he's doing this dramatic role, because he's a terrific actor. He's heartbreaking and pathetic and beautiful and all these things in one movie. And he's very supportive and the nicest guy in the world to work with. 

And your character, Dinah?

I love her because she's not taking any of his shit. As hurt as she might have been in the story in the past, she's a fighter and a survivor and someone who's not afraid to tell him the truth. It's so raw, visceral, emotional. It's pretty great.

Are you going to be in the movie adaptation of Wicked?

I don't think so. Unless they want to use some really great aging CGI and do something with Kristin and me. I think they want to go with a younger cast, unfortunately. I would love to be in it, but I don't know if it's going to work out that way.

You won a Tony for the role, but it cost you a rib or two. Take us back to the penultimate performance in your run as Elphaba?

Dorothy hits the Wicked Witch of the West with the water and she melts. Usually my character would step on this floor that would descend down five feet so I could melt into the floor. And there was a sub on the automation and someone had cued the floor already. So, I walked into a five-foot hole and broke the fall with my ribs and ended up, literally, "Is there a doctor in the house?" It was supposed to be my last week in the show and the next day the producers said if you can get dressed and get yourself to the stage, we'd like to give you a sendoff. I was on I don't know how much Vicodin and got up to the stage and came out for the curtain call in an Adidas sweat suit. It was nice.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity