Broadway musical finishes on sour note
April 9, 2014
Idina Menzel is back on Broadway. Viewed as the childhood idol of so many young theatergoers thanks to her role as Elphaba in the original cast of Broadway showstopper “Wicked,” Menzel returns to the Great White Way in the musical “If/Then.”
The same young girls who were so inspired by Menzel’s Elphaba can relate to Menzel’s new character Elizabeth, a recent divorcee who moves from Phoenix to New York City to reinvent herself. Here, the storyline splits, playing out the answer to the question “What if?”
One storyline follows Liz, who wears glasses and finds love after going a certain way in the park one afternoon, and the other follows her counterpart Beth, who finds success in her career after going the other way that same day.
The storylines of Liz and Beth are not difficult to follow. They are woven together well with parallel life experiences like pregnancies and weddings. However, the music, which plays throughout and weaves together the two storylines, is unfortunately forgettable. While Menzel has her moments of musical power that showcase her incredible talent — particularly a big belting number at the end — they are not the sort of musical numbers the audience would quietly hum while leaving the theater.
The design of the show is colorful and clean-cut, topped with a mirror overlooking the stage that appropriately adds new viewpoints of Elizabeth’s story.
The supporting cast is just as talented as Menzel, despite receiving far less attention. Anthony Rapp, who plays Elizabeth’s best friend, is solid throughout both storylines. James Snyder, who plays Liz’s love interest, is incredibly charming, though his vocal range does not mesh well with Menzel’s. Snyder shines in solo ballads, as does LaChanze as Liz’s neighbor Kate, a spirited lesbian kindergarten teacher. The rest of the cast, however, neither fits with the show nor forges genuine connections among themselves, making the entire ensemble fall short.
In general, “If/Then” relies too much on Menzel’s stardom. With her in the lead role, seats will sell, but it seems unlikely that the production will be capable of standing on its own when she inevitably leaves.
The show, while interesting and original, is not the kind of musical that audiences can fall in love with and see time and time again. Though featuring a talented and passionate cast, “If/Then” misses the bar that recent Broadway shows have set.
“If/Then” is playing an open run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 9 print edition. Addy Baird is a contributing writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.