'If/Then' Review: Idina Menzel Stars In Enchanting New Musical
Once in a while, a musical comes along that reflects something peculiar and challenging about human nature and the harsh realities of life. You know, something theater is known to do on the elusive occasion. Now, I'm not one to pass off a good musical just because it doesn't like to get a little dark and controversial. But I jump at the chance to see a performance like If/Then, a musical that explores the idea of the alternate existences left unfulfilled.
To put it simply, the musical aims to answer that unnerving “what if” question we ask ourselves once get past life's "fork in the road" moments. And the title of the songs in the musical, such as "You Never Know," "Some Other Me," “What Would You Do," should be sufficient to hint at this theme.
Our protagonist, Elizabeth (Idina Menzel), asks herself this "what if" question. Manhattan is her mirror (set designer Mark Wendland literally placed a gigantic overhead mirror on the stage) that she uses to regard herself as what she is and what she could have been.
Elizabeth is a professor of urban design who just went through a divorce. She moves to New York City to begin a new life and a new career. At this point, Elizabeth reaches that aforementioned fork in the road, two different paths that are traversed by two different Elizabeths: Liz and Beth. Both receive a phone call at Madison Square Park from an acquaintance, Stephen (Jerry Dixon), who embodies Elizabeth’s opportunity to enter into city politics. Beth takes the call, and Liz does not. And so, two parallel lives are born: that of Liz and that of Beth.
If/Then succeeds partly because it stars the marvelous Ms. Menzel, whose credits include Wicked and Rent, and also because many of us have that desire of knowing what life would have been like if we had taken that other job, dated that other person, or moved to a different city. The magic of If/Then is that it lets us see that other life unfold on stage.