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Idina Menzel Stars in "If/Then" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre
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Idina Menzel Stars in "If/Then" at the Richard Rodgers Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

David Stone, James L. Nederlander,
Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo
et al.
Present:

Idina Menzel

in
If/Then
(If/Then Website)

Music by Tom Kitt
Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Directed by Michael Greif

Orchestrations: Michael Starobin
Music Director: Carmel Dean
Choreographer: Larry Keigwin

At
Richard Rodgers Theatre
226 West 46th Street
212.307.4100

Starring: LaChanze and Anthony Rapp
Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, Jason Tam,
Tamika Lawrence, Jackie Burns, James Snyder

and an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Set Design: Mark Wendland
Costume Design: Emily Rebholz
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Wig and Hair Design: David Brian Brown
Vocal Arrangements: Annmarie Milazzo
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller
Casting: Telsey + Company
Technical Supervision: Jake Bell & Lily Twining
Production Stage Manager: Judith Schoenfeld
General Management: 321 Theatrical Management
Press: Polk & Co.


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 2, 2014 Matinee


Reflecting on If/Then, if you arrive at a dull, generic, pop musical and are looking for a mental challenge, here it is, one actress with duo personalities that enable dual choices from start to finish. The problem is, the set is also generic, wide open, and incapable of differentiating the dual dramatic plots, so you will find yourself in sitting-position vertigo, spinning in dismay, confused, just waiting for nice tunes. Unfortunately, the tunes are also generic, elevator styled, but occasionally a lyric here and there will rhyme with four-letter profanities, also embedded into the songs. You might wait for surprise sub-plots, but secondary characters appear and reappear in the dual plots, with two of those characters morphing in and out of androgynous sexualities. Then, you might think this is a New York show, so you’ll see New York locales or at least symbolic ones, but, again, the set is mostly a giant mirror and stark, steel-ish construction with beams and benches for streets, rooms, subway, park, and so on. You may wish this were one of those 90 minute intermission-less productions, but, no luck, you’ll be here almost three hours. .

Idina Menzel, infamous as Elphaba in Wicked and the lead vocalist in Disney’s Frozen, is occasionally engaging as both Liz and Beth, the dual personalities that generate dual decisions and life choices, that generate dual fates and levels of luck. She mostly belts her way through music and lyrics. Tom Kitt wrote the show’s music, and Brian Yorkey wrote the show’s book and lyrics. My Playbill did not list the songs, highly unusual in a Broadway musical; perhaps they, too, were generically titled. Lucas (Anthony Rapp) is a best friend of Elizabeth and her scripted doppelgangers, Liz and Beth, as he shows up in her bedroom one night and then marrying David (Jason Tam) later in the show. Kate (LaChanze), another friend, appears to have been intimate with Stephen (Jerry Dixon), Elizabeth’s boss in New York City Planning, and then becomes involved with Anne (Jenn Colella) later in the show. Josh (James Snyder), an Army doctor, woos, seduces, and marries Elizabeth, but later returns to war, with questionable results, due to the mix of sub-plots and enacted mind games, within the confines of erector set minimalism. Elena (Tamika Lawrence) is Stephen’s wife or ex-wife, depending on the plot of the moment. The entire dramatic concept of If/Then is like a corporate retreat exercise, with a goal of intertwining plots and conscious and subconscious bonding relationships, all personified by articulate amateurs..

Ms. Menzel bursts into song with wide vocal range and certainty of being heard in the balcony. At times she engenders interest in the plights of the duo Liz/Beth, but the show’s device is so complex that audience members nearby were perplexed at intermission and perturbed with the musically rhymed obscenities. LaChanze is perky with fantastic vocal talent and stage presence to boot. Anthony Rapp has a comedic, compelling persona, one that will be well served in future productions. Jerry Dixon is hugely charismatic, as is James Snyder, and I look forward to seeing both actors in the future. Michael Greif probably did the best he could do with this ho-hum book and supermarket tunes, while choreographer Larry Keigwin, who runs an accomplished and busy dance company, put together some street-styled choreography. I look forward to seeing his work on other stages. Mark Wendland’s minimalist scenery can be noted for the giant mirror that reflects the stage, as well as his rumbling subway car, built by moving around benches and such. Emily Rebholz’ costumes are barely memorable, except for Josh’s Army fatigues and some nice office suits. Kenneth Posner and Brian Ronan’s lighting and sound were mostly effective in the solo spotlighted moments. Carmel Dean’s orchestra kept the rhythms pulsating.


Idina Menzel with the Cast
of "If/Then"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus


LaChanze and Anthony Rapp
with the Cast of "If/Then"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus




For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net