The new musical “If/Then” may have only run for a little over a year on Broadway, but the soundtrack took on legs of its own, landing at #19 on the entire Billboard 200 to become the highest charting cast recording since “Rent” in 1996. Then again, that isn’t surprising considering it reunited the blockbuster’s most beloved marquee names, Idina Menzel and Chicago’s own Anthony Rapp, the latter of whom was given a warm homecoming as Lucas in this multi-layered tale of parallel storylines.
Cross that universal appeal with the impeccably performed songs, and chances are “If/Then” will get a much deserved second life on tour to slowly gain the mass appeal of its predecessors.
Picking up where Menzel left off is commanding powerhouse Jackie Burns (a cast member of the original production, plus “Wicked” and “Hair”) who plays Elizabeth, a divorcee knocking at the door of 40 and faced with fate intervening in even the most minor decisions and seemingly everyday occurrences. As the show’s title suggests, this city planning professional who returns to New York to restart her life is instantly faced with two completely different roads, each cleverly crafted by “Next To Normal” collaborators Tom Kitt (composer), Brian Yorkey (book writer/lyricist) and Michael Greif (director).
The “choose your own adventure” tale starts within seconds as Elizabeth’s personality is figuratively divided between Liz and Beth to represent each possible path. Sure, reconnected college friend Lucas, her peppy new neighbor Kate (the zesty “American Idol” finalist Tamyra Gray), doctor/army reservist Josh (the tender-hearted Matthew Hydzik of “Side Show,” “West Side Story” and “Grease”) and her boss Stephen (the no-nonsense Daren A. Herbert from “The Wild Party”) are always intertwined, though both journeys to rediscovery are riddled with their very own chances and choices.
And given the fact that “If/Then” comes from the same creative team of “Next To Normal,” that means there’s a whole lot of drama at the hands of romantic twists, tragedies and triumphs, though there’s also just as much comic relief and memorable music. As Elizabeth ponders both Liz and Beth’s ticking of the clock towards middle age, it’s also likely to trigger countless emotions throughout the audience, especially anyone embarking on a major life change.
When it’s all eventually sorted, the simple but inspiring takeaway is to simply live each day with an open mind and make the most of any given circumstance without trying to retrace any steps of regret. Cross that universal appeal with the impeccably performed songs, and chances are “If/Then” will get a much deserved second life on tour to slowly gain the mass appeal of its predecessors.