Idina Menzel and more shine in touring show of ‘If/Then’
It’s billed as a story about the place where chance and choice collide.
“If/Then” is a new musical fresh off its run on Broadway. Star Idina Menzel and several other outstanding original cast members are in the current national tour of the show playing now through Sunday, Nov. 8, at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle.
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The background star of this production is Pulitzer prize-winning and Tony award-winning playwright and lyricist Brian Yorkey, who literally grew up on the Village Theatre stage in Everett and Issaquah. In his story, Menzel plays Elizabeth, a woman in her late 30s who moves to New York City to start a new life. The possibilities are enormous, and we watch Elizabeth in two separate story lines as chance and choice carve parallel lives for “Liz” and “Beth.”
Yorkey, who directed “Cabaret” for Village this past summer, said how much he loved the Broadway cast of “If/Then.”
“People asked me what it was like to have Idina Menzel kiss me after the last New York show in March,” Yorkey said. “It was great.”
On opening night Tuesday, the Tony award-winning Menzel had to pause after the first word of her opening line to let the audience cheer their greetings. Menzel’s powerful voice, made famous by her roles in the musicals “Rent” and “Wicked” and more recently as the voice of Elsa in “Frozen,” belted out her solos with stirring aplomb.
Equally wonderful in her role as Elizabeth’s friend Kate is fellow Tony award-winner LaChanze, who nearly stole the show with her fine acting. Also great were other original cast members Anthony Rapp, who plays Elizabeth’s college buddy Lucas, and James Snyder, as Josh, the Army doctor who falls in love with Liz.
Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt are a team perhaps best known for their award-winning musical “Next to Normal.” Kitt’s music for “If/Then” is typical of many contemporary musicals; the music moves the story line, but most of the melodies aren’t in the hummable category. Nevertheless, many of the songs were moving.
The spare sets, always in motion, were perfect as the stories of Liz and Beth intertwined.
The show runs a bit long and it’s definitely not for children, owing to liberal use of the “F” word — though when it’s used it’s hilarious. In the end, one comes away with the remembrance that whatever we choose in life, we inevitably will encounter sadness but also great joy.