If/Then.Richard Rodgers Theatre (see Broadway). Music by Tom Kitt. Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Directed by Michael Greif. With Idina Menzel, James Snyder, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, Jenn Colella, Jerry Dixon. Running time: 2hrs 35mins. One intermission.
If/Then: In brief
Beloved diva Idina Menzel (Wicked) returns to Broadway in a new musical by the makers of Next to Normal. Menzel plays a fortyish woman whose life is followed along two parallel tracks in the classic "what might have been" scenario. Michael Greif, her old partner on Rent, directs.
If/Then: Theater review by David Cote
There is—there can only be—one Idina Menzel. She of the armor-piercing vibrato and earworming ratio of nasal to breathy. The Wickedpower belter—inviting and untouchable—is what every little girl and boy glued to Glee wants to be when they grow up, and even if she only gigs on the Great White Way every 6.3 years (on average), she’s still the multiplatform avatar of the Broadway star. They broke the mold with Menzel, which is why the idea of her playing two versions of herself in If/Then intrigues. She portrays a single woman whose forking life-paths are presented in alternating scenes. In If/Then’s conceit (also used in Sliding Doors), Elizabeth (Menzel) gets split into Liz, who pursues love at the expense of a career, and Beth, who lands the fancy job but misses romance.
Why, you ask—sensing antifeminist boorishness from a mostly male creative team—can’t Elizabeth have both? Just wait, kids: That’s the fun of watching book writer and lyricist Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt puzzle out their time-braiding premise.
If you’re getting Sondheim hot flashes—Merrily We Roll Along for its retrospective rue and Company for insights into urban singledom—you know where If/Then lives. It’s a smart, contemporary piece for adults. It doesn’t condescend—to its sympathetic and fallible same-sex couples, or to an Army reservist (James Snyder) for whom Liz falls.
Menzel imbues her character with maximum pluck and vulnerabilty. But for all the charisma of the lead and ensemble, Kitt’s score blurs into similar-sounding midtempo pop ballads. Menzel carries the show but can’t force us to care about Liz/Beth’s average life choices. People are just too darn nice in If/Then’s world. We need more bitchery and satire, more injustice for our hero to fight against, to inspire an anthem as thrilling (if as slick) as “Let It Go.” Otherwise, we get a Choose Your Own Adventure that’s not really venturesome.
THE BOTTOM LINE Menzel sings a song of fate in this smart but underwhelming musical.
Follow David Cote on Twitter: @davidcote
Average User Rating
4.2 / 5
- 5 star:4
- 4 star:0
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:1
Forget the haters! This musical is genius. It's so smart and beautiful that it only gets better each time I listen to the sound track. Perhaps the problem is that the meaning, import, and beauty of this musical is difficult to fully appreciate in a first viewing. I saw the musical about two months ago, liked it, but fell in love after listening to the CD. After listening to the CD in my car I've been looking forward to my car rides ever since. Bravo Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey! Superb cast too, and not just Idina Menzel; James Snyder has a beautiful tenor voice. Best musical I've seen in a long time.
Incredible show! As a lifelong theater going New Yorker I never had a desire to see a show more than once until now. I've seen it three times already and it just keeps getting better. The cast as a whole is terrific and of course Idina Menzel was phenomenal as well. I didn't find the show difficult to follow or understand. In a current Broadway saturated with Disney and movies brought to stage it is refreshing to see and enjoy a completely original musical.
This is by far the most original show that has come to broadway in years.. I got to see it now only in D.C but then again in Previews and again after it opened. The show has become better and better each the and the music and cast are truly amazing… While Broadway is full of shows that are based on movies and music that has been around since the 20's -the creators should be praised for having the courage to come back to broadway with an original piece that is relatable to people of all ages.. I loved Next to Normal and now am in love with If/Then..
Loved La Chanze who merits my one star. The book of the musical was incomprehensible until 3/4 of the wat through and then when the point became clear to me, by that time I didn't care. Huge disappointment, as I loved Idina in Wicked and Tom Katt and Brian Yorkey's Tony winning musical Next to Normal. I have also admired in the past Michael Grief's direction of Rent and Grey Gardens. Unfortunately this one is is total misfire, for me.