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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 6, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 45
If/Then - A look down the other road
Arts & Entertainment
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If/Then - A look down the other road

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

IF/THEN
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
November 3-8


If/Then is a new musical written by the Pulitzer Prize winning, collaborating team (Next to Normal) of Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. Four of the main actors (Idina Menzel, LaChanze, James Snyder, and Anthony Rapp) are recreating their roles (for a limited time - see *NOTE below) on the First National Tour. Dealing with choices, fate and 'the road we didn't take,' the musical is thought provoking and intelligent as well as having good lyrics and music.

The storyline takes place in NYC in 'the recent past' and deals with choices that we make, and don't make, and how either can affect us in the long run of our lives. Elizabeth (Idina Menzel) has moved back to New York City after her divorce from a husband in Arizona. Two friends meet her in the park. Kate (LaChanze) lives across the hall and believes in living life to the fullest with every moment, with the first thing being nicknaming her new friend, 'Liz.' Lucas (Anthony Rapp) is a long-time friend from college. He is a protestor for fair housing and tries to persuade 'Beth' to come to a meeting with him instead of hanging out in the park with Kate. It is here that the two stories split into two different and simultaneous tales.

IF Liz had gone with Kate, THEN what happened with Lucas would have never occurred to Beth, and vice versa. After running into each other (by chance) three times, Liz accepts a date with a handsome soldier named Josh (James Snyder), home after his second tour of duty. The two fall in love and start a family. Beth answers a fortuitous phone call and accepts a job with the city as a planner for Urban Development. As Beth becomes very successful in her career, she laments the sacrifices made involving relationships and families.

Audiences need not worry; the storyline isn't nearly as complicated as it sounds. The separation between 'Liz' and 'Beth' is defined very well, and it is easy to distinguish one from the other. Although the other characters still interact with 'Liz' and 'Beth,' the different name used for each set of circumstances (and a pair of glasses) smoothly transitions the character from one storyline to the other. Both storylines have their pros and cons for Elizabeth's life (although one path is decidedly more biasedly presented) and are shone with accurate portrayals and interactions.

The four main leads are all reprising the roles they originally created during the Broadway run. It is without a doubt that Idina Menzel's voice is powerful and that she delivers the strength that is needed for the songs in this show. Her stage presence allows the audience to accept her as either Liz or Beth, Ms. Menzel distinguishingly separating the two personalities. It is her name above the title, and the audience reminds us of that by stopping the show (with applause and cheers for several minutes) the moment she appears, and before she has a chance to demonstrate any of her talents. Josh, played by James Snyder, does well as the love-of-Liz's-life. His voice is strong and clear. His handsome stage presence is notable, and he brings an endearing charm to the character. Anthony Rapp plays Beth's friend Lucas, a neurotic protestor. The audience roots for this underdog easily thanks to Rapp's skills at playing 'lovable geek,' and his voice is well suited for the songs. LaChanze plays Kate, Liz's new, feisty, fun-loving neighbor and friend. Her voice is clear, beautiful and powerful without a doubt. The character of Kate is energetic and vivacious, and LaChanze is seemingly having a fun time with every bit of it, as she captures the audiences' attention, without trying, in every scene she appears. LaChanze knows how to make Kate a full-fledged, larger-than-life and highly enjoyable character.

The sets of the show are simple - adding dimension without stealing attention from the actors on stage. Utilizing the minimalistic effect, most of the platforms are open boxes that easily allow them to transform from subway cars to an office in Manhattan, or someone's private residence. Composer Tom Kitt and book writer/lyricist Brian Yorkey, who have previously won the coveted Pulitzer Prize for Drama for their musical Next To Normal, reunite to form a show that leans more towards modern operetta than a musical; in other words, there are plenty of songs. The music is melodic and easily flows throughout the show, lingering on the ear well after the audience has left the theater. The lyrics are provocative (warning: some include 'adult language') and promote the characters thoughts, ideals and dreams, as well as the plotlines, as good lyrics should in a musical.

If/Then is definitely a piece of modern theater. Its representation of modern life (and lifestyles) are shown fairly and presented well. While its great to see the original cast members recreating their roles, If/Then is not a show that needs to rely on that kind of star power. The music, lyrics and duality of plotlines are all enjoyable enough on their own. IF you don't see this musical, THEN you will be left wishing you had.

If/Then is presented by Broadway at the Paramount. Tickets are available at: www.stgpresents.org; 1-877-STG-4TIX; and at the Paramount Theatre Box Office (9th Ave. & Pine St.).



If/Then premiered on Broadway on March 5, 2014 and ran for just under a year closing on March 22, 2015. It ran for over 401 performances and was nominated for 2 Tony Awards (Best Original Score, Best Lead Actress in a Musical) but failed to win in either category. The Original Cast Recording was released on June 3, 2014 where it debuted at #19, the highest a Broadway Cast Recording rated since RENT in 1996.

*NOTE: Idina Menzel, LaChanze, and James Snyder will only appear in seven select cities (including Seattle) while Anthony Rapp will continue on the National Tour.

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