There’s the Idina Menzel who will look out on a crowd, spot a little girl carrying an “I love you Idina” sign, and invite the kid on stage to get her poster autographed.
Then there’s the Idina Menzel who will look out on a crowd, spot an adult fan with a sign requesting a song, and quip: “You can’t make requests. It’s not a f------ bar mitzvah.”
Which Idina Menzel will we get on Friday night, when the beloved Broadway star (“Rent,” “Wicked,” “If/Then”) and Disney princess (“Frozen”) brings her 2017 world tour to Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre?
Both. Definitely both.
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“The demographic of my audience is all over the map, which is an amazing thing,” says the actress and singer, who will perform classic pop covers, musical theater favorites and her own solo work (including selections from her new album, “idina.”). “But it’s also a tricky thing, to make sure that I can involve the young people – the really young kids – and then the older men, and the parents in between. And I’m a 40-something woman, you know, so I have to stay true to myself. I’m not doing a kids’ show.”
Menzel spoke to the Observer recently about the novel way parents can shield kids from profanity at her concert, the character she’s played that is closest to her heart (hint: you’ve probably never heard of this one), and the important lessons she’s been getting from Steph Curry.
Q. Because of “Frozen,” bunches of young girls consistently show up at your concerts. How does that play into your overall approach?
A. Well, this is the thing: The 12-year-old girls from “Frozen” used to be the 12-year-girls from “Wicked” that used to be the 12-year-old kids from “Rent.” The generations have moved, they’ve had kids, and I think they’ve grown up with me. So there’s an understanding and a support from them as fans and as friends. I think that Vince Vaughn helped me out when he said “Earmuff it for me” in “Old School.” And I just say to the moms that they’ve gotta give me a “get-out-of-jail-free” card; once in awhile, I gotta let it rip and be myself.
Q. I also saw there’s a release date for “Frozen 2” (Nov. 27, 2019), so you’ll be teeing up yet another generation of 12-year-old girls in a couple years, huh?
A. Exactly. ... I’m not quite sure how I’ve gotten that lucky, but this pattern of pretty empowering women roles is a gift and a responsibility, I feel. And they’re not just great projects. They’re projects that live on and take on such meaning and resonance with people. They mean so much to me. I mean, I learn from these characters that I play. They challenge me to think a certain way and believe in myself a certain way.
Q. Do you have a favorite character that you’ve played?
A. I think one of my favorites is from a movie that nobody saw. There’s this little movie – it was by Robert Towne, who wrote “Chinatown” – called “Ask the Dust.” It starred Colin Farrell and Salma Hayek, it was set in the 1930s, and I had this great supporting role. I just fell in love with her and what she was about. She wasn’t as brave as a lot of the – er, not brave, that’s wrong. ... I’d say she had a hard time finding herself. She had a drinking problem and self-esteem issues. She was very wounded. She doesn’t overcome that status as much as the other women that I play, and I don’t think it got reviewed that great, but I was proud of my performance.
Q. Did you sing in it?
A. Nope. That’s probably another reason I like it so much. It’s nice to feel like I can be recognized as a really good actress without singing.
Q. Is that something that’s important to you, to keep an eye out for roles that don’t require you to sing?
A. Honestly, you can’t be so picky in this business. If something great comes along – as long as it’s beautifully written or I can collaborate or be in the room with people that are gonna make me a better artist – then I just go. If it involves music, cool; if it doesn’t, cool. I just want to be around great people and get better. That’s all that really matters.
Q. Back to the shows: I understand that there’s a moment toward the end where you bring kids up on stage from the audience to sing “Let It Go” with you.
A. Yeah, most of the time. That’s when my real maternal instincts come out, because I have to handle like 20 kids on a precariously high stage, and their crazy moms that are pushing them up there, not paying attention, just trying to take their picture. ... But the whole thing is just about sharing that with them. To bring the kids up as a reminder of what it really is about. I love doing that.
Q. Do you ever get sick of that song, though?
A. People always think “Let It Go” would get boring to sing all the time, but it doesn’t. I’ve always wanted like a hit song. I’ve had iconic songs, but that song got played by the mainstream. So I’m so proud of it. I enjoy it.
Q. OK, but does it ever get stuck in your head, like it does with the rest of us?
A. (Laughing.) Not so much. If it does – if I sing it a little bit – my son gives me like the stink-eye. (Her son Walker turns 8 in September; his father is actor Taye Diggs; the couple divorced in 2014 and she is currently engaged to actor Aaron Lohr.)
Q. Your son’s on the road with you, right?
A. Most of the time, yeah.
Q. How does he like touring?
A. I think he loves it. I mean, he gets to be on a tour bus – how cool is that? We have these bunk beds, and he’s got his movies all set up, and he’s really into basketball now, so I bought a big hoop that fits on the truck. We can take it out in every parking lot that we show up in, so he can play.
Q. Do you two play one-on-one?
A. Yeah. I mean, I hurt my knee ... but I don’t want him to know that. I don’t want to be that parent that can never play, so I play through the pain. I’ve always been into basketball, but I’ve been learning how to actually play – by like watching YouTube videos of Steph Curry to learn how to do a crossover. “Break ankles” apparently is the new term. (Laughing.) I’ve been working on my handles. I gotta make my son proud, you know?
When: 8 p.m. Friday.
Where: Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd.
Tickets: $25 and up.
Details: 800-745-3000; www.livenation.com.