If/Then

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    December 1, 2014
    Review by:
    Tom Millward

    Review by Tom Millward
    24 December 2014

    After the success of the highest-grossing animated film of all time, the voice of Idina Menzel as the Snow Queen 'Elsa' has been pouring out of households with young children all across the globe for some time... and they just can't seem to 'Let It Go'!

    Some might say this Snow Queen is also the undisputed Queen of the Great White Way, and after witnessing her performance in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's latest musical offering 'If/Then,' it would be difficult to argue with them.

    To say she has her work cut out for her is an understatement, gracing the stage for the majority of the show and belting out number after number, including the show-stopping "Always Starting Over" in Act II. There are only brief scenes, which center on the musical's subplot love stories of Lucas and David and Kate and Anne, where she is not present on stage.

    The musical's book may not be completely original, reminding me greatly of the 1998 Gwyneth Paltrow film 'Sliding Doors,' and at times I felt it would perhaps work more effectively on screen. Splitting into two seperate narratives at the first number of the show, Elizabeth (Menzel) experiences two differing journeys depending on a decision she makes one day. To make it (slightly) more easy to follow, each narrative is led by a different 'version' of Elizabeth. 'Liz' (who from this point onwards decides to wear a pair of glasses to 'look smart and appeal to guys' and also, of course, to help us distinguish her) looks to fall head over heels in love with Josh, a returning soldier. 'Beth' on the other hand chooses the path of the career woman and abstains from the use of spectacles.

    The problem lies in keeping track of each journey and not mixing up the two. I found myself muttering silently to myself "Hang on, is this actually Liz? Where are her glasses?!" On screen, cross-cutting scenes together like this would serve less confusing, as different hairstyles, clothing and settings would be used for each character. I wonder if more of an effort to distinguish could have been made on stage, rather than Ms Menzel simply turning her back for a second to put on a pair of glasses?

    The lyrics are also somewhat repetitive, hammering home the omnipresent question "What would happen if...?"... We get it.

    There are, however, great supporting performances too, notably from LaChanze as Kate and from Idina's old 'Rent' colleague Anthony Rapp as Lucas. They share witty sparring dialogue in Act I and offer some well-needed character depth in an otherwise one-woman show, with their own relationship experiences.

    The set is sleek, modern-looking, at times simplistic and utilises a mirrored ceiling to great effect. The reflection of the multi-coloured New York subway map from the floor of the stage is a particular visual highlight.

    'If/Then' could be described as a modern New York musical for a young, modern New York audience, who love watching shows about life in New York, filled with New York in-jokes. It is also, however, the perfect opportunity to see one of Broadway's greatest stars in all her glory.

    (Tom Millward)

    "Taken separately, neither plot of 'If/Then' is terribly compelling or distinctively drawn. Taken together, they feel less like variations on a theme than dogged reiterations of a theme."
    Ben Brantley for New York Times

    "If Menzel wasn’t around with her big belt and mellow warmth, there would be no reason to visit at all."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "New Broadway musical 'If/Then' would be DOA without Idina Menzel. The star holds this ambitious but unwieldy show together."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "'If/Then' has its moments, but it is a letdown after Kitt and Yorkey's electrifying achievement with 'Next to Normal'. All you can say is that creating a great original musical is very hard and complicated and sometimes things just don't work out."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "This musical about fate, choice, possibility and divergent paths asks how a split-second, random decision can reshape the course of a life. And it asks that question again and again and again, with the blunt insistency of a mallet."
    David Rooney for The Hollywood Reporter

    "This smaller-than-life show can’t extinguish Menzel’s larger-than-life persona, but it certainly diminishes her Amazonian strengths as a performer."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - The Record - Hollywood Reporter - Variety