Music By: Tom Kitt
Lyrics & Book By: Brian Yorkey
Distributed by: Masterworks Broadway
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I've loved Idina Menzel's signing voice since her tour as Elphaba in Wicked. So when I was told that I would be receiving the original cast recording of her latest musical, If/Then, I couldn't wait to check it out.
Officially opening on Broadway in May 2014, If/Then stars Idina Menzel as Elizabeth Vaughan, a 38-year-old recently divorced urban planner who has moved to New York City for a fresh start on life. Meeting with her friends Kate (LaChanze), a lesbian kindergarten teacher, and Lucas (Anthony Rapp), a bisexual community organizer, Elizabeth asks them for advice on her approach. Kate suggests that Elizabeth go by the name of Liz and seek out new experiences, while Lucas suggests returning to her college nickname, Beth, and begin making new political connections to move her career in the right direction.
The rest of the musical is a study of what would happen if Elizabeth decided to take one path over the other. Thus, we are treated to a look at her life as Liz, in which she meets and falls for Josh (James Snyder), an army doctor just returned from his second tour of duty. While she struggles with her professional career and the married life she has chosen with a man about to embark on his third military tour, her friends find themselves embroiled in their own dramas.
We also get to see what would happen if Elizabeth decided to go by Beth and try to further her career through professional contacts. As it turns out, Beth finds herself getting intimate with Lucas, only to find herself pregnant. Unable to deal with the idea of a child at this time, Beth has an abortion without telling Lucas, putting a severe strain on their once close friendship. Once again, her friends find themselves embroiled in drama, but this time around, things seem to work out better for at least one of them and Beth finds herself doing better than Liz in the professional game, choosing it over a family life.
The songs found on the If/Then Soundtrack are quite enjoyable thanks to the strong singing performances put on by Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp and James Snyder. That being said, I can usually figure out what is going on in a musical by what takes place in its songs. Not so with If/Then. Listening to the soundtrack without knowing the storyline of the musical proved to be incredibly confusing. I knew that the musical centered around Elizabeth, regardless of what nickname she had chosen, but I couldn't figure out what was going on. One minute she was Liz, one minute she was Beth, still yet, she was Elizabeth. Which life was I listening to now? And which of Elizabeth's alter egos enjoyed dropping the F-bomb so much?
Though the singing performances are well-worth the Tony Award nominations that they received, this musical is slightly confusing and not exactly worth all of the hype it has received over the past couple of months. If you want to get yet another sample of Idina Menzel's fantastic voice, by all means buy the If/Then Original Cast Recording. If you are looking for a musical with a straight forward storyline and plot, you have come to the wrong place.