“If/Then” has had a curious history. It ran just under a year on Broadway, from March 2014 through March 2015, and was nominated for two Tony Awards – best score and best actress (Idina Menzel) – but lost both.
Meanwhile, fans at the internet site broadway.com handed it six prizes: new musical, new song, actress (Menzel), onstage pair (Menzel and James Snyder), featured actor (Anthony Rapp) and featured actress (LaChanze).
That kind of love inspired a national tour. Menzel briefly repeated her role as a 40-ish urban planner named Elizabeth, who returns to New York to jump-start her life. We watch her go down two paths simultaneously, one as Liz and one as Beth, as events affect her destinies. (Jackie Burns has since taken over the role.)
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The music comes from Tom Kitt, the book and lyrics from Brian Yorkey; they wrote the darker, Pulitzer-winning “Next to Normal.” You can see “If/Then” next week at Belk Theater in the PNC Broadway Lights season. Here’s what critics at other papers have said:
Kerry Reid of The Chicago Tribune: “The show … is really carried by Burns' belting pipes and offhanded prickly charm. Both of these gifts add nuance to the score, which tends to stay in the mid-tempo pop ballad track, even as Liz/Beth take chances on new notes in their lives. Burns handles the tougher-than-it-seems job of playing a woman who doesn’t like to reveal any more than necessary – until she's nearly at the point of crumbling.
“Successful urban planning is as much about the unseen infrastructure as it is the flashy public projects, after all, and Burns is pretty terrific at suggesting the subterranean depths of both Liz and Beth, as they doubt the choices they've made.”
Don Aucoin of The Boston Globe: “Watching ‘If/Then’ is like gazing at an intricate architectural blueprint for what promises to eventually be an impressive building, then never quite getting a chance to see the building itself take shape. There’s a lot going on – too much – in this ambitious but unwieldy, cliché-ridden, and sometimes tedious musical. …
“It’s too bad, because the central idea is reasonably promising. The musical sets out to explore that most fraught of questions for those inclined to ruminate about roads not taken – in other words, all of us.”
Amy Stumpfl for The Nashville Tennessean: “(At) a time when much of Broadway seems focused on repackaged movies or revivals, it’s refreshing to see an original contemporary musical that deals with real-life issues. But real life in the Big Apple (at least the polished Broadway version of such) can feel pretty far removed from our own reality. …
“Still, having this much star power on one stage is thrilling, with original Broadway cast members Jackie Burns and Anthony Rapp delivering exceptional performances. Burns (Menzel’s standby on Broadway, and a bonafide star in her own right) gets to the heart of Liz/Beth with precision and charm. And while I would maintain that not every song needs to be belted, her sheer vocal power is impressive.”
When: July 19-24 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1:30 and 7 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.
Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.