Idina Menzel is ready for a special evening on July 17 when she headlines Nikon at Jones Beach Theater for the first time.
"Even just thinking about it gets me kind of emotional and excited," the Syosset native says, remembering all the concerts she saw there growing up. "Any time you're returning to your hometown and having such an incredible year -- it's all a little bit surreal."
Of course, after the past two years, Menzel is probably pretty used to surreal.
Though Menzel was already known for her Broadway star turns in "Rent" and "Wicked," as well as her recurring role on Fox's "Glee," her involvement as Elsa in the Disney smash "Frozen," including singing the worldwide smash "Let It Go," took her celebrity to new heights. Then, when John Travolta christened her "the wickedly talented Adele Dazeem" on the 2014 Oscars telecast in front of 43 million people, things started getting a little crazy.
However, Menzel is taking it all in stride. "As a kid I thought I could do anything," she says. "Now, as a more mature woman, who's gotten some sense knocked into her, I'm ecstatic."
The idea of filling amphitheaters like Nikon at Jones Beach Theater or theaters around the world amazes Menzel, who wonders how she can sell tickets in Japan. "I've never been there before," she says, laughing. "How do they even know who I am?"
Most of that can be attributed to three little words: Let. It. Go.
"I knew it was a beautiful song, but I had no idea that it would become the phenomenon it has become," Menzel says during a recent news conference. "What people don't realize is that it's wonderful to have a song that has heightened my profile. But the beautiful thing about it is that it speaks to me as a woman, and as a reminder for myself about the things that are important, and the things that I need to learn -- for instance, the idea of not hiding the things that make us powerful and those things that might set us apart and make us extraordinary in the world."
Though the stages may be getting bigger for Menzel, she says she still wants to make sure she connects with everyone who comes to see her.
"That is challenging to do, the bigger the venues get, but I think it is possible," Menzel says. "If I continue to try to be really honest and authentic and allow for spontaneity and that I stay in the moment, then I can achieve that."
Menzel says picking the right set list is important. "I make sure I include songs that I think that people would really want to hear and then I challenge myself and I pick other songs that I have always wanted to sing or do a new interpretation of," she says. "I might try a different original song here and there."
That may even include new material, as Menzel says she is currently working with songwriters and producers for a new album.
Whatever songs she is doing, Menzel promises that fans will be hearing her sing live.
"Occasionally, if I have to endure criticism because I miss a high note on a below-zero day in the middle of winter, as much as that hurt my feelings, then that's what I have to do because I'm not going to stop singing, and I'm certainly not going to lip sync," Menzel says, referring to the fuss created when she missed the high note from "Let It Go" as she sang in Times Square on New Year's Eve. "That's a hard part of what I do. It can definitely hurt your feelings sometimes, but I think that when people come to see you live and see what you really can do, they get it. When they're there with you, they really see what the difference is and how important it is that us singers keep doing our thing."
Menzel says casual music fans have become so used to singers who don't actually sing live that nobody is perfect.
"I want to be perfect all the time, but I know that the more interesting performances aren't," she says. "There's beautiful imperfections that make things more interesting. You're going to feel something much more if someone is true and honest and idiosyncratic and you can hear the texture in their voice. Those are the people and the artists that we love, that move us and change us."
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, July 17, Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
INFO $25-$125; 516-221-1000, livenation.com
Back to Broadway
Following her current solo tour, Idina Menzel will hit the road again with the touring company of her Tony-nominated Broadway musical "If/Then." Menzel says she's been approached to appear in the revivals of several musicals, but she says she wants to focus on originating characters on Broadway. Who can blame her?
Here's a look at some of the characters she has launched:
ROLE Maureen Johnson in "Rent" (1996)
BEST KNOWN FOR The sassy showstopping number "Take Me or Leave Me"
RECEPTION Tony nominee, featured actress in a musical
ROLE Elphaba in "Wicked" (2003)
BEST KNOWN FOR The soaring inspirational ballad "Defying Gravity"
RECEPTION Tony winner, lead actress in a musical
ROLE Elizabeth in "If/Then" (2014)
BEST KNOWN FOR The dramatic conclusion to her joint story lines "Always Starting Over"
RECEPTION Tony nominee, lead actress in a musical