Highly Recommended ***** In our lives, there are many times that we think about “what might have happened, IF”. If we did this, something else might have taken place! If we had gone to a different school, then our lives would have been different! Broadway in Chicago is presenting the National tour of a new musical that depicts this, as we follow two storylines in the life of one woman. The name of the musical is “If/Then” and is written by the same people who brought us “Next To Normal”. If you loved “Next To Normal”, you will no doubt fall in love with this one as well! One would have to re-classify this from a new “musical” to a “Chamber-type rock opera”. The music (Tom Kitt composer) and Lyrics (Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book as well) are hauntingly rock and as in “Normal” propel the story more than interrupt it.
Let’s talk about the story itself. Elizabeth (also known as Beth or Liz, depending on which other people are involved) is a 40- year- old woman who has just moved back to New York to restart her life after a nasty divorce. Playing this role is the dynamic Jackie Burns, who has a voice that will entice you into falling in love with her. WOW! In this story, or should I say, these stories, there are two paths to her life. Those she has planned to follow and then, those of random chance. Sound confusing? Well, it is not! Director Michael Greif (who also was involved in “Normal” moves this play from scene to scene with great ease. Two-and-a-half hours seems to move quickly. It is nice when we get to watch some of the original stars from New York, make the trip to the road. Ms Burns is terrific.
Adding to one of the story lines is her old best friend, Lucas (played to perfection by Anthony Rapp, who many might remember as Mark in “Rent”). He has always adored her, but during the course of the show, we find that he is truly more homosexual than straight. Her neighbor, Kate (played by Tamyra Gray, an American Idol-where are they now finalist) is a school teacher and with her best friend-lover, Anne ( Janine DiVita) become part of Liz’s life. Her work background has been city planning and the man she is interviewing with for the New York position is Stephen (deftly handled by Daren A. Herbert), who at one time was in love with her. He is married with kids, but finds that the attraction is still in place.
Enter Josh. Josh (a solid performance by Matthew Hydzik ) is the random unknown circumstance that changes Beth’s life. He is an Army doctor reservist, who has just finished a tour in Iraq. He sees her and instantly decides that this is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. As it turns out, and here I do not want to spoil some of the sub-plot, they do marry and have kids and here is again another thing to look at in the “If /Then” idea. During the telling if her stories, we see that she is faced with many choices and some of them are not the paths that we had hoped for. Again, the questions arise- what if? If I had done this, what might have happened?
This is an amazing production that will keep you on the edge of your seat several times. The set moves swiftly and in many cases by the actors, themselves. This is not a dance musical but Larry Keigwin’s choreography is smooth . Being a National Tour, the sets and costumes are what they had in New York and as a whole this production is one that will be as close to the original as one can hope for. You will find yourself a captive audience member for the entire production. You will also find yourself entranced by the musical numbers, and yet, for the most part will not remember any of them on the way out.
“You Learn to Live Without” and”Here I go” along with “What The F—!” are songs where we get to see both Liz and Beth speaking to the actions and reactions in her (their) life (lives). Hard to explain as we know there is one lady with two personalities. The ensemble of 12 plays a multitude of roles proving what I always say, a strong ensemble can make a production an entertainment memory. There is also another character in this show, David (Marc DeLaCruz) a doctor who works with Josh and becomes Lucas’s “husband”. Again, I try not to give away the story and in this case, the many stories that take place. I will say that if you are an “Archie Bunker” type, this show is NOT for you. If you are open-minded about the world we live in today, and love a solid story that has love and intrigue in it, you will not want to miss this one.
“If/Then” will play at The Oriental Theatre, located at 24 West Randolph Street thru March 6th with performances as follows:
Wednesday 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Thursday 7:30 p.m.
Friday 7:30 p.m.
Saturday 2 and 8 p.m.
Sunday 7:30 p.m.
Tickets range from $25-$98 ( a bargain for theater of this quality) and can be purchased at any of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “If/Then”.