If/Then opened earlier this year with pretty high expectations as the first big follow-up from the team that brought us (one of my personal favorites) Next to Normal. If/Then came to Broadway after a successful run in DC last winter.
Personally, I’ve been following this show since I first heard about it at a Tom Kitt / Brian Yorkey concert at Lincoln Center a couple years ago. They played a few songs from the show there – which only added to the excitement.
Since opening on Broadway, I have seen If/Then twice.
At the most simple, this show is clearly a vehicle for its star Idina Menzel. In addition to that, its sort of a dumb show about how the smallest choices can change your life for good or bad. Idina plays Elizabeth who is back in NYC after a bad divorce in Arizona and looking to start over …. The concept fine, if not very original, but the authors must have really thought they are smarter than us, because they beat this concept over your head over and over and over again. Literally from the first note, they never give us a chance to make any discoveries ourselves. The show constantly reminds you that – “hey, remember, this little choice will have consequences later…”
To be blunt – act one pretty much sucks. Mostly because the consequences of Elizabeth’s (now Liz / Beth depending on the storyline) choices have zero consequences and mean nothing. The songs are whatever and you’re really just bored.
In act two, Tom and Brian finally took the show in the direction that made Next to Normal so successful — high drama. These guys are the best dramatic song writers out there right now. Just listen to Next to Normal every song is written and performed at a 10 every time. Act one of If/Then floated around a 5 for most of it and now, finally in act two – they turned up the drama.
I won’t give any spoilers – but I truly believe act two (especially Idina’s performance in it) is worth the price of admission. The second time I went to the show, I warned a savvy theatre going friend to just bear with act one and it’ll pay off. At intermission he acknowledged the weakness of the first act and I really was hoping he’ll see what I did in act two — and he did.
Idina’s eleven-o-clock number (see her Tony performance) is one of the best songs I have seen on stage in a very long time. Based on the quality and diversity of the songs in the second act I really wonder if the guys wrote that first and then felt that they needed to quickly come up with a first act before they would have a show?
I don’t know how much longer Idina will be in the show and have a feeling it’ll close pretty quickly after she leaves … so if you have a chance check it out now.