It’s not often that we get the chance to talk about one of our nerdier passions, live theater. Luckily, living just minutes away from Hollywood by way of train, we have the opportunity to see the best live performances that come to town. When one of those chances presents itself, we snatch up the chance in a heartbeat.
This time, the chance came in the form of the National Tour of Broadway’s If/Then featuring the talents of some of the original Broadway Cast. Now what does that mean? It means the talents of those such as James Snyder (Cry-Baby), Anthony Rapp (RENT), Tony Award winner La Chanze (The Color Purple), and Idina Menzel of Wicked, Rent, and Frozen fame.
Going into the Sunday matinee performance this past weekend, I knew nothing of the show beyond the cast and some of the creative team, the team behind one of my other favorite musicals, Next to Normal. So I had to ask myself the morning of: What exactly is this show about??
The contemporary new musical by the creators of Next to Normal is set where choice and chance collide. Elizabeth, a woman rebuilding her life in New York City, discovers a world of infinite possibilities. In one moment, Elizabeth will lead parallel lives. IF/THEN is the story of both.
The concept of the musical is all based on the question of “What If?” The show even contains a song of the same title, asking the characters of the play as well as the audience to contemplate the idea of the consequences of certain actions. It was surreal watching the two story lines play out simultaneously, switching between one another and intertwining through visual cues and dialogue.
The cast of the show was spot on. There was energy, bristling emotion, and captivating performances from the lead actors to the background characters. It is hard to pinpoint who I thought was my favorite in the show because every actor and actress upon that stage put in their every fiber of their being into the performance, and added to the overall heart of the show.
If I had to go into specifics, it is impossible not to point out the sheer vocal power that Idina Menzel possesses on stage, and how she really can bring down the house (check out her vocals on the song “Always Starting Over.”) I would be remiss if I did not point out that Anthony Rapp and La Chanze absolutely stole the show in their roles though. As Lucas and Kate, they help to shape and mold the lives that Elizabeth (Liz/Beth) lead throughout the show.
While it is important to have talent behind the songs being performed, the songs themselves need to be powerful, fun, emotional, and keep the audience connected. There were songs that did just that, but I also found myself wanting more from some of the other tunes on the soundtrack. Songs felt like they were there to merely state a location, or to point out “oh hey, this is happening right now, do you see what’s happening?” They pushed to the audience, instead of drawing them in and letting them figure out what the songs meant. This was my only real gripe. You can listen to two of the songs off the Original Broadway Soundtrack HERE.
Overall, the couple of hours spent in the theater to watch this musical play forth in front of your eyes is well worth the price of admission. The story is full of heart, the actors bring all of their strengths, and you can tell your friends that you’ve seen some of Broadway’s best from the comfort of the West Coast.
Would I see If/Then again? You bet I would. No question of “What If?” there!
If/Then runs though January 3rd, 2016 at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood, CA. You can purchase tickets here.