Idina Menzel is Broadway’s contemporary Queen of the Showstoppers. With “Take Me or Leave Me” from RENT, and then with “Defying Gravity” from Wicked, Menzel turned songs into events, thrilling theater audiences and even more listeners via original cast recordings.
Her most celebrated hit, though, originated in the Disney animated film Frozen. That song, “Let It Go,” won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2014 ceremony at which John Travolta famously butchered Menzel’s name as “Adele Dazeem.”
The song was practically inescapable in the mid-2010s, not only Menzel’s definitive take that is Disney’s most streamed song, but in a version by Demi Lovato and countless YouTube remakes amassing billions (with a “b”) of views – some parodies, others so earnest they take your breath away.
The popular movie made its way to Broadway, just as previous Disney blockbusters such as Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin.
In Disney’s Frozen, the focus is the relationship between sisters Elsa and Anna, who are princesses of Arendelle. Elsa possesses a secret magical power to freeze objects and people which she doesn’t know how to control. When Elsa inherits the throne, she flees, and in her wake inadvertently causes the kingdom to become frozen in an eternal winter. Anna commits to a treacherous journey to find Elsa and bring her home.
The musical has been called “simply magical” and an unforgettable theater experience due to the wow factor of special effects, stunning wintery sets plus the powerful performances from the two lead characters.
The song “Let it Go,” is the climactic moment and it’s what’s being let go that gives the song its power and makes it resonate with so many.
Elsa is leaving behind the fear and shame she felt over her abilities and accepting what makes her different.
It’s a pivotal and powerful statement for anyone who’s ever felt fear and shame over something that made them not like the others.
“Stories abound of gay, lesbian and transgender people, people in prison, people with eating disorders and chemical addictions and plenty of others on the margins, all identifying with the tale of a queen … who learns to shed her shame and accepts the things that make her different,” according to an NPR story on the song’s popularity.
Robert Lopez, who co-wrote the song with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, attained EGOT status thanks to “Let It Go,” adding an Oscar to his list of awards which already included an Emmy®, Grammy® and Tony®.
The pair are known for the sardonic numbers they’ve composed for musicals such as The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q. For “Let It Go,” sarcasm was set aside in favor of hope.
Anderson-Lopez believes that fans of the song are responding to “this feeling of … I’m going to let my own unique power out and not live in fear of whatever it is I’m dealing with, whether it’s pressure to be a good girl and be beautiful and perfect,” she told the Toronto Star.
“Everyone is bringing their own interpretation to this song and I’m glad about that.” she said.
It’s a credit to the writers that so many people, for so many reasons, hear themselves in a song written in the voice of a Disney princess. “Let It Go” helped make Frozen a smash for Disney but its legacy will be the hope and power it gave to a world in need of an anthem.
Disney’s Frozen plays Morsani Hall at The Straz March 23 – April 3, 2022.