I have heard a lot about IF/THEN since its debut on Broadway. And usually I’m one to listen to the soundtrack or familiarize myself with the story before I go to a show. But with IF/THEN I made sure not to listen to the songs or know much, because I knew it was an integral part of the show. And I’m glad I didn’t, because seeing it was definitely quite a journey and Idina did not disappoint. It left me wanting more, and wanting to see it again, but if you want to see this you only have until Sunday January 24th!
Two of my all time favorite actors bring this show to life. IDINA MENZEL and ANTHONY RAPP. They are part of the reason I got into Musical Theater. And it’s amazing that four of the original cast members from the Broadway production and some of the supporting casts. It truly helps with believing the story and characters and the connections they have made while touring and on Broadway.
IF/THEN tells a story of a newly divorced 38-year-old urban planner, Elizabeth (Idina Menzel), who has moved back to New York City for a fresh start. The inciting incident starts quickly as Elizabeth is with her friends Kate (LaChanze), A lesbian kindergarten teach, and Lucas (Anthony Rapp), a city activists and former lover who sometimes swings the other way, in Madison Square Park. While wating for her friends there are two alternate scenarios that play out for Elizabeth. Kate suggests that “Liz” stays to listen to the musician in the park and ends up bumping into Josh (James Snyder), a corky military stud recently returned from duty. From here “Liz’s” life follows a life with Josh while the other scenario has Lucas suggest that she go by “Beth” and encourages her to answer a life-changing career phone call missing Josh all together.
While many of the reviews of the show have said they have found the story hard to follow between “Liz” or “Beth” I found it was easier to follow because of the songs. It was though, very hard for me to watch. It definitely stirs up emotions and what if’s? You start thinking about how your own life could have been different. What if I finished college? What if I stayed in Israel? The show for me felt like a great mixture between ONCE and RENT.
Every single person in this cast is incredible. I have only seen Idina live one other time before, but I know from all the YouTube videos she could be hit or miss. Well, thankfully for this performance she was spectacular. You could tell she was completely in her element. She laughed and broke character with jokes, and towards the end of the show, she was wiping away tears. Her comedic timing was perfection, and her belting gave me chills.
While everyone is there to see MENZEL and RAPP, the entire cast is phenomenal. LaChanze is a breath of fresh air. Her voice is spectacular and again the comedic timing is on point. The cast also includes someone close to the Disney family, Deedee Magno Hall, who portrayed Jasmine on stage at Disney California Adventure in Aladdin: A Musical Spectacular. She plays Cathy as well as several other characters in the show. What I loved about the show, is that the supporting cast is as strong as the leads.
Something you might miss unless you are paying attention, is the costume and staging changes. The cast does this on stage with the choreography. The sets are somewhat simple but effective, and don’t distract from the storytelling. It was amazing to watch Idina changing in and out of clothes when the storyline seemingly switched from “Beth” to “Liz.” Both these aspects of the show for me made the production even stronger.
IF/THEN delivers a powerful message that it’s ok to think about the “what if’s?” in your life, but also not to dwell on the past. The cast is spectacular, and for the principals this is there last week in the show. I highly recommend seeing it before it closes on Sunday. IF/THEN is playing until Sunday 1/24. Tickets start at $29. More information is available at SCFTA.org.