Review: If/Then

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A fast-paced story of one woman's parallel lives present "what-if?" scenarios in this contemporary Broadway musical.

Broadway at TPAC presents:
If/Then (June 7 – 12; Ages 14 and older)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 • tpac.org
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $30 – $70

A fast-paced world of “what might have been” is at the forefront of the new Broadway musical If/Then at TPAC’s Jackson Hall this week.

With a book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, the musical opened on Broadway in spring 2014 where it ran almost one year starring Idina Menzel, who reprised her role as Elizabeth for the first three months of the show’s national tour which hit the road in October 2015.

Having experienced If/Then for the first time, and being a long-time fan of Menzel’s, it’s obvious that If/Then’s creators conceptualized the music to be a vehicle to fit her amazing vocal talent. In fact, the multi-talented Jackie Burns, who’s now playing the leading role on the tour (she was in the Broadway cast, too), sounds a lot like Menzel with the same range and similar tonal quality. In short order, it’s easy to picture Menzel in the spotlight while Burns is belting through numbers like “Always Starting Over.”  Burns possesses a powerful voice much like her predecessor, and it makes an interesting side note that she’s following Menzel’s footsteps in this show as she also played another role Menzel originated on Broadway: Elphaba in Wicked (Burns played the character both on Broadway and on tour).

A few of If/Then’s touring cast also were in the Broadway run, including LaChanze (Kate), Anthony Rapp (Lucas), Marc DeLacruz (David), while others have also enjoyed Broadway credits like Matthew Hydzik (Josh), Janine DiVita (Anne) and Jacques C. Smith (Stephen). Most of the cast deliver many moments of quick wit and impressive singing, but stay alert because at times the parallel lives of the central character can be tricky to keep up with.

The concept is interesting as urban planner, soon-to-be-40 Elizabeth returns to New York City after a failed marriage and life in Phoenix, Ariz. As the story unfolds, with a couple of different deciding factors, Elizabeth becomes Liz in one life and Beth in another, and both lives are constantly revolving on the stage, interweaving the other characters — some who are common in both universes, and others who aren’t. It’s fast-paced and at times difficult to determine which of Elizabeth’s stories you’re witnessing, particularly in Act I.

The drama in Act II is easier to follow, but overall, aside from a few impressive musical numbers, it’s a fairly lightweight show that at times is clumsy. In the end, the audience is left with the whole “What If?” scenario that’s natural for anyone to ponder, but there’s a lot more merit in just living in the moment and being present in today.

Note that this is not a show suitable for young kids due to mature themes and a hefty dose of adult language, so keep this one as a parents’ night out date should you decide to make theatrical entertainment part of your weekend plans.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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