Review: If/Then (Broadway in Chicago)

| March 1, 2016

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

          
      
   

If/Then

Written by Tom Kitt (music)
  and Brian Yorkey (book, lyrics)
Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map)
thru Mar 6  |  tix: $25-$98  | more info 
        
Half-price tickets available  


    
  

Working it all in the big city

  

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

    
Broadway in Chicago presents
    
If/Then

Review by John Olson

If you like your musicals on the cerebral side, then If/Then is the one for you. The musical by the Next to Normal team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, which ran about a year on Broadway, explores two alternative life paths of a youngish middle-aged New York woman. The recently divorced Elizabeth has moved back to NYC from Phoenix to seek important professional work and find a great love. The premise is that her seemingly simple choice between staying with one group of friends to attend a concert versus accompanying a different friend to take part in a demonstration would set her life on one of two different trajectories, and the musical shows us what each of them looks like. In one scenario, the woman (Elizabeth) lingers behind with two girlfriends (Kate and Anne) in New York’s Madison Square and meets a handsome soldier and ignores a phone call from a prospective employer because she doesn’t recognize the area code. She misses out on a great job but ultimately marries a great guy. In the other alternative, Elizabeth follows college friend Lucas to the demonstration. She doesn’t meet the soldier who could have become her husband, but she takes the call from the prospective employer and gets the job. The idea that apparently innocuous choices can have major consequences is a fascinating thesis, but wouldn’t it be more fascinating to explore the consequences of obviously major life choices? And, it’s a bit disappointing that the promising premise Kitt and Yorkey have set up leads to the well-trod consideration of life path choices for women of selecting either marriage and motherhood over pursuing a professional career.

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

Neither path is easy for Elizabeth, but the writer’s sympathies seem skewed to the marriage and family track. In that alternate reality, where Elizabeth is called Liz, she takes a less challenging job as a teacher of urban planning. She marries the handsome soldier Josh – who is actually a surgeon in between tours of duty and a solid, sensitive guy to boot – and with him has two beautiful kids. The other life path, where Elizabeth is called Beth, has Beth rise to the top as a New York City urban planner – a high profile career that leaves little time for romance, leading Beth to an inappropriate pursuit of her married boss and an ill-fated liaison bisexual Lucas. Maybe romance is just easier to communicate on stage than career fulfillment – especially when the “prize” doctor husbands looks like Matthew Hydzik, who plays Josh. Regardless, the cerebral, fantasy nature of the dual stories tends to distance us from the characters. It’s harder to care about things that might “hypothetically” have happened – or might not have happened at all. Plus, Yorkey’s book is too diagrammatically plot driven. The characters aren’t fully fleshed out – and one wonders whether the circumstances of their lives are really just determined by Elizabeth’s choice that day in the park. Wouldn’t their values have an impact as well?

The musical is more successful and entertaining as a picture of contemporary life among youngish big city professionals (the characters are in their late ‘30s and unmarried as the stories begin), albeit a very NY centric one. There are slams at the thought of living in Albany or Phoenix, but most of the situations and laughs are universal enough. The production design, which includes a simple set by Mark Wendland and flashy, scene-setting projections by Peter Nigrini and Dan Scully, firmly places us in present day New York. Some of the projections simulate parks and well-known locales in the New York landscape – and a simulation of a moving subway train is very effective. The projections include maps of the city, placing the action around Manhattan and Brooklyn, and knowledge of NYC geography is going to help with understanding the story. The choreography by Larry Keigwin is not the most athletic or flashiest dancing you’ll ever see in a Broadway musical, but it creates the feeling of how people move in the city.

If/Then

 - Jackie Burns If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

 If/Then

Jackie BurnsIf/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

 If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

The songs by Kitt and Yorkey, with their wise lyrics and rock-influenced melodies, cover a range of emotions common to this demographic. There’s the comic “What the Fuck” as both Beth and Liz contemplate questionable choices, “Hey Kid,” Josh’s song to his newborn son; and Beth/Liz’s power ballad “You Learn to Live Without” in which the two versions of Liz mourn losses and deficiencies in their lives. The first act’s songs are a little too similar in style and tempo, but any would be great additions to an iPod shuffle selection. The second act’s numbers are more varied, helping that latter act overcome its excessive length. At 2:45 including intermission, If/Then overstays its welcome a bit.

Though the piece seems to have been conceived as a vehicle for the original Elizabeth, Idina Menzel (and indeed, it closed on Broadway once Menzel left the show), this company is led by the very capable Jackie Burns. Burns has the look and sound of Menzel. She’s a worthy surrogate for Menzel as the tough urban woman approaching forty, and shows the same sort of powerful, yet crisp and controlled voice in delivering her character’s ten songs. Hydzik, last seen in Chicago as an energetic Mr. Snow in Lyric Opera’s Carousel, is a lovable dreamboat with a perfect combination of masculinity and self-effacing vulnerability. He’s well cast as Josh, the “Mr. Perfect” surgeon who has saved lives on the battlefields of the Middle East as well as the streets of New York. Anthony Rapp, the only member of the Broadway cast appearing in If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

this tour, is appealing enough as the gay/bisexual buddy Lucas, even if the character seems an older version of the younger man he created in Rent twenty years ago. That’s probably not coincidental given that If/Then’s director Michael Greif guided both musicals. The thought that If/Then is a follow-up of sorts to Rent is reinforced not only for its reunion of Greif, Rapp and Menzel, but also by the presence of a battling lesbian couple. In Rent, we had Joanne and Maureen. Here, it’s Kate and Anne – amusingly played by Tamyra Gray and Janine DiVita.

So to see or not see If/Then? It’s doubtful your decision will be life-altering, but the engaging cast and the heartfelt songs will give you your money’s worth for a good evening out, and reassure you that the musical theater form can address contemporary issues, and look and sound like the times we’re living in right now. Probably not since Stephen Sondheim and George Furth took on love and marriage in the big city with their 1970 musical Company, has it been done this well in a Broadway musical.

  
Rating: ★★★
  
   

If/Then continues through March 6th at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map).  Tickets are $25-$98, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online through Ticketmaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at IfThenMusical.com(Running time: 2 hours 45 minutes, includes an intermission)

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

Photos by Joan Marcus 


  

artists

cast

Jackie Burns (Elizabeth), Anthony Rapp (Lucas), Tamyra Gray (Kate), Matthew Hydzik (Josh), Janine DiVita (Anne), Daren A. Herbert (Stephen), Marc Delacruz (David), Kyra Faith (Elena and others), Corey Greenan (Deputy Mayor, An Architect and others), Cliffton Hall (A Bartender and others), Xavier Cano (A Soldier and others), Alicia Taylor Tomasko (A Flight Attendant and others), English Bernhardt (Paulette and others), Deedee Magno Hall (Cathy and others), Tyler McGee (a street musician, others), Charissa Bertels, Trey Ellett, Joseph Morales, Emily Rogers (swings)

orchestra

Kyle C. Norris (conductor), Alex Harrington, Matt Goodrich (keyboards), Hidayat Honari (guitar), Greg Germann (drums), Steve Leinheiser, Sean McNeely (reeds), Tim Burke (trumpet, flugel horn), Michele Lekas, Steve Winkler (violins), Loretta Gillespie (viola), Mark Lekas (cello), Tom Mendel (bass), Buddy Fambro (guitar)

behind the scenes

Michael Greif (director), Larry Keigwin (choreography), Kyle C. Norris (music director), Mark Wendland (set design), Emily Rebholz (costume design), Kenneth Posner (lighting design), Brian Ronan (sound design), Peter Nigrini, Dan Scully (projection design), David Brian Scully (wig & hair design), Jake Bell, Noel Bell (technical supervision), Michael Starobin (orchestrations), Carmel Dean (music supervisor), Annmarie Milazzo (vocal arrangements), Michael Keller (music coordinator), Michael Aarons (music associate), Mark Myars (associate choreographer), Shawn Pennington (production stage manager), Jen Ash (stage manager), Heather Englander (asst. stage manager), Marc Delacruz (dance captain), Alicia Taylor Tomasko (asst. dance captain), David Alpert (asst director), Joan Marcus (photos), Telsey + Company (casting), 321 Theatrical Management (general management), David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Fox Theatricals, Marc Platt (producers)

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

If/Then
Winspear Opera House

Jackie Burns
Tamyra Gray
Anthony Rapp
Matthew Hydzik

Production Credits:
Michael Greif (Direction)
Larry Keigwin (Choreography)
Mark Wendland (Scenic Design)
Emily Rebholz (Costume Design)
Kenneth Posner (Lighting Design)
Brian Ronana (Sound Design)
Carmel Dean (Musical Direction)
Tom Kitt and Michael Starobin (Orchestrations)

Other Credits:
Lyrics by: Brian Yorkey
Music by: Tom Kitt
Book by Brian Yorkey
- See more at: http://playbill.com/events/event_detail/if-then-at-winspear-opera-house-360274#sthash.EEdmyT5i.dpuf

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Category: 2016 Reviews, Broadway in Chicago, John Olson, Musical, National Tours, Oriental Theatre (Ford), Tom Kitt, Video, YouTube

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