Idina Menzel and Laura Veltz interview: ‘Cinderella’ songwriters
“What else are we here to do, if not acknowledge what’s wrong with the world and try to change it,” songwriter Laura Veltz declares about the Oscar-shortlisted song “Dream Girl” from “Cinderella,” a decidedly unconventional take on breaking the cycle of regret and self-doubt, which she co-wrote with Tony winner Idina Menzel.
“That to me is the most beautiful part of this,” she goes on to explain about what the song means to her. “Every time I listen to the song I tear up, thinking, oh my God, I’ve said that to myself. I know not just women, but anyone in a disenfranchised setting, anyone who’s oppressed and identifies with the voice that says ‘you can’t.'” We talked with Menzel and Veltz as part of Gold Derby’s special film songwriters “Meet the Experts” Q&A event with key Oscar contenders. Watch our exclusive video interview above.
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“Cinderella” is the latest live-action re-imagining of the fairy tale, written and directed by Kay Cannon (“Pitch Perfect”), and starring singer Camila Cabello as the famous title character in her acting debut. Boasting a dynamite soundtrack of pop, rock and hip hop inspired covers of classics such as Janet Jackson‘s “Rhythm Nation” and Madonna‘s “Material Girl,” the jukebox musical is at its most endearing when Menzel belts out original song “Dream Girl,” an anthem sung by stepmother Vivian, played by Menzel in the film. The musical’s all-star cast also includes Minnie Driver, Nicholas Galitzine, Billy Porter and Pierce Brosnan and is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video after its initial theatrical run.
Menzel is obviously no stranger to musicals, being one of the most successful Broadway performers of her generation, including for her Tony-winning Broadway debut as Maureen in “Rent,” her Tony-winning role as Elphaba in “Wicked,” and of course as the voice of Elsa in Disney’s animated musical blockbuster “Frozen,” for which she performed the Oscar-winning hit original song “Frozen.” Veltz on the other hand is an acclaimed songwriter based in Nashville, having written for popular country artists such as Maren Morris, Dierks Bentley, Dan + Shay and Little Big Town.
When asked about the song’s ultimate message, the Tony winner says it was her character, a more complicated, nuanced version of the traditional wicked stepmother trope from past iterations of the classic fairy tale that inspired the song’s lyrics. “I was really thinking about my character, this woman that has been held down, suppressed, oppressed, who’s allowed her dreams to be shattered, and is the inner voice and the rage that a lot of us have, and the number that we can do on ourselves and get in our own way,” she explains, adding that “then I realized for so many people that were listening to it, it was a way to rebel against the quintessential beautiful, perfect person as well, the perfect princess. I love that it exists on so many levels.”
Veltz is equally effusive about how much the song means to her personally. “It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes, Stephen Sondheim’s ‘careful the things you say, children will listen,” she says. “If your parent tells you something, you’re going to believe it, then you tell your child, they’re going to believe it. Then they tell their children and oppression just stays and stays. It’s a generational hand-me-down. This song to me is every voice, collectively, every voice in our head,” Veltz declares. “It’s so beautiful to me that it has managed to be tucked in a children’s film, this important message that obviously Cinderella is arguing against, which is the only way any of us are going to evolve is if our children say no to us, essentially. That to me, that’s everything.”