You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Regional Legit Review: ‘If/Then’

Impressive new musical boasts strong performances and a melodic score, but the ambitious, convoluted book could use some work before the show arrives on Broadway in the spring.


Idina Menzel, James Snyder, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, Jason Tam, Tamika Lawrence, Jackie Burns. 

The sublime talents of soprano Idina Menzel are showcased to the hilt in “If/Then,” an impressive new tuner by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey that gives new meaning to the term “book-heavy musical.” Bowing in a pre-Broadway tryout at D.C.’s National Theater, it tells a story so convoluted that the plotlines are color-coded. The plodding elements of the complicated yarn are among several fixable concerns that would advisably be addressed en route to Gotham.

To be fair, a cerebral examination of life’s possibilities, and the consequences of chance occurrences, is the challenging undertaking from the talented “Next to Normal” team. The nuances of probability are among the weighty topics explored.

Menzel plays a 38-year-old Arizonian named Elizabeth who has relocated to New York, where fateful choices seemingly abound. Author Yorkey has devised two alternative paths for her to pursue, and unveils them simultaneously. As “Beth,” she’s a career-oriented city planner. As “Liz,” she’s a more carefree teacher married to the handsome U.S. Army physician she met at the park. Scenes are cast in red or blue depending on the interwoven storylines of the moment.

It’s a demanding assignment that keeps Menzel onstage virtually throughout the energetic show — great news for auds, since the artist’s dexterity and earthy voice are fully exploited by Kitt’s melodic score. The task begins immediately with a lengthy opening chorus number punctuated by Menzel’s vibrant entrance singing the signature tune “If.” It ends almost three hours later with her socko number “Always Starting Over.”

Offering full-throated support is a versatile team of Broadway regulars that includes Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) as the longtime activist chum; James Snyder (“Cry-Baby”) as the physician; Jerry Dixon (“Once on this Island”) as the overly interested boss; LaChanze (“The Color Purple”) as the spunky neighbor; Jenn Colella (“Urban Cowboy”) as the neighbor’s lesbian partner; and Jason Tam (“Lysistrata Jones”) as the spouse of Rapp’s character.

Combined, they portray the motivated denizens of a truly hip New York City where folks are as likely to be gay as straight, almost everyone is self-absorbed and the F-word is a linguistic mainstay, as in the acerbic act-one number “What the Fuck?”

Kitt’s score adheres to the modern musical style of pop, rock and country themes embellished with soaring melodies and tight ensemble harmonies. The principals all make the most of their opportunities. Rapp serves up an act-one highlight with the lively tune “Ain’t No Manhattan,” which also features some of Yorkey’s cleverest lyrics. Snyder’s pleasing tenor voice is displayed in “Here I Go,” a country-flavored duet with Menzel, while LaChanze and Colella double the impact of their impressive talents in another country-influenced tune, “No More Wasted Time.”

It is all effectively staged on Mark Wendland’s elaborate multitiered set complete with turntable, adjustable mirrored ceiling and countless scene variations to accommodate ever-changing locales. Director Michael Greif clearly does his best to keep the heavy load buoyant, as does choreographer Larry Keigwin.

Some unevenness is expected at this phase of any new show, and it’s evident here in both music and lyrics of the tuner’s 21 numbers. But the principal concern should be the book, which has laudable intentions but at times registers as tedious, inscrutable and predictable. Its many moveable parts are pursued at such a relentless pace that there is little opportunity for auds to take a breath. When a much-needed dose of sarcasm is finally inserted by the perky LaChanze character late in act one, it comes as a blast of fresh air.

Regional Legit Review: 'If/Then'

National Theater, Washington, D.C. 1,169 seats. $253 top. Opened Nov. 24, 2013. Reviewed Dec. 1. Running time: 2 HOURS, 50 MIN.


A David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Fox Theatricals and Marc Platt presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. 


Directed by Michael Greif. Choreographed by Larry Keigwin. Sets, Mark Wendland; costumes, Emily Rebholz; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound, Brian Ronan; orchestrations, Michael Starobin; musical direction, Carmel Dean.


Idina Menzel, James Snyder, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, Jason Tam, Tamika Lawrence, Jackie Burns. 

More Legit

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

  • Hadestown Broadway

    'Hadestown': Inside the Musical's 12-Year Odyssey to Broadway

    “Hadestown’s” 12-year journey to Broadway was an odyssey in its own right.  Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell’s buzzy musical, a folk-operatic retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus, a musician who ventures to the underworld to rescue his fiancée, Eurydice, was in development for more than a decade before arriving on the New York stage. The show [...]

  • Elaine May in The Waverly Gallery

    Playwright Kenneth Lonergan on the Genius of His 'Waverly Gallery' Star Elaine May

    When Elaine May agreed to be in my play, “The Waverly Gallery,” naturally I was ecstatic. I had admired her as a director, writer, actor and sketch comedian since high school, when my friend Patsy Broderick made me listen to the album “Nichols and May Examine Doctors.” I didn’t know then that I had already seen Elaine’s [...]

  • Lisbeth R Barron Investment Banker

    Investment Banker Lisbeth R. Barron on How She Became a Broadway Deal Specialist

    If you want to get a deal done on Broadway, call Lisbeth R. Barron. Barron is a veteran investment banker who launched her own shingle, Barron Intl. Group, in 2015. She has brokered a slew of deals throughout her career — which has included stops at S.G. Warburg and Bear Stearns — involving companies and [...]

  • The Lion King Frozen Disney on

    Disney Theatrical Celebrates 25 Years on Broadway

    The Disney brand is known worldwide for its family-friendly entertainment with a flair for magic, music and spectacle, but when its adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” hit Broadway in 1994, success wasn’t guaranteed. Variety’s positive review by Jeremy Gerard noted, “It will almost certainly be met with varying levels of derision by Broadway traditionalists.” [...]

  • The Prom Broadway

    'The Prom': How the Little Show That Could Found Its Way to the Tonys Dance

    Does a Broadway musical still count as an underdog if it’s got über-producer Ryan Murphy in its corner? It does if it’s “The Prom,” the labor of love from a team of Broadway veterans that’s carving out a place for itself as an original story on a street full of familiar titles and well-known brands. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content