It’s everything I want a show to be.
If/then statements aren’t merely reserved for writing scientific hypotheses or mathematical proofs in geometry class. We weigh our options through the lens of this phrase quite often when trying to make decisions about the little things in life and the big, and If/Then’s Elizabeth (Jackie Burns) is no exception. When the show begins, the audience immediately learns how Elizabeth thinks, and it’s pretty darn relatable. The opening song “What If?” sets up the theme of this production (and Elizabeth’s indecisiveness) perfectly:
“Tell me what if I’m bound for disaster?
What if I fall off a cliff?
Will I ever just learn how to live and not wonder ‘what if?’
See each choice you make is a kind of a loss
Each turn that you take and each coin that you toss
You lose all the choices you don’t get to make
You wonder about all the turns you don’t take.”
Like I said, relatable right? As much as Elizabeth refuses to bank on chance, she’s just taken one by moving back to New York City to pursue her dream of working as a city planner rather than just teaching the subject. A failed marriage kept her away from NYC for 12 years, and at 38 years old, she’s prepared to start anew. Of course, the process of starting over is filled with decisions. Elizabeth’s new neighbor and instant friend Kate (former American Idol contestant Tamyra Gray) has given her the nickname Liz, whereas her college friend and once love interest Lucas (Anthony Rapp) calls her Beth just as he always has. Although she’s already told Lucas that she’ll accompany him to a rally, she’s tempted to stay with Kate and listen to a hot guitarist in the park. Although either option sounds inconsequential, that’s absolutely not the case. From this crossroads on, the production explores Elizabeth’s two lives—the one stemming from leaving the park with Lucas as Beth and the other the result of staying with Kate as Liz.
It’s rare for me to feel like I can adequately sum up my feelings about a show in a few words, but this production is an exception. Every aspect of If/Then is absolutely incredible! I could type this declaration out, in all-caps, dozens of times. It’s everything I want a show to be—it has strong vocals, staging, and acting that combine to bring a powerful, memorable story to life. I wish I could have gone back to see it again the very next night and the next and the next.
I imagine I’d love any production of this show, but here’s why you need to see it during this particular tour: It sounds like it’s never left Broadway and, spoiler alert, Jackie Burns is just as sensational in this role as Idina Menzel, who originated it. To be honest, a friend of mine and I had our fingers crossed for months that Menzel, who also notably originated Wicked’s Elphaba and Maureen in Rent, would be on this tour when it hit St. Louis. (We’re super fans, what I can I say.) However, when we heard Burns’ first note, our disappointment completely dissipated. During intermission, I even questioned whether or not we were just being punked and Menzel was actually onstage after all. Not surprisingly, Burns was a member of the original If/Then cast and has also played Elphaba on Broadway and toured as the character as well. (If only the director of the highly-anticipated film adaptation of Wicked would bypass the celebs being considered for role of Elphaba and cast Burns. PRETTY PLEASE!) I can’t wait to find out what her next venture will be!
My fan-girling for Burns aside, there’s truly not one cast member in this production who doesn’t shine. Anthony Rapp is superb as always, and Matthew Hydzik, who plays Liz’s love interest Josh, has the sexy yet heart-meltingly sweet voice of an angel, and the same can be said for Daren A. Herbert who plays Beth’s co-worker Stephen. Aside from Burns’ sensational performance, Gray’s energetic portrayal of Kate was the treat of the evening. Kate is very much the opposite personality type as Elizabeth. She’s a firm believer in fate and embracing “signs” as the world sends them. It would have been a shame if Gray stopped singing after Idol; her voice is powerful and perfect for the stage.
There are plenty of opportunities left to see this show before it hits the road, so reschedule your other plans if you have to because this should not to be missed. (P.S. Try the specialty drink while you’re there; it’s cutely called “The Possibility Cocktail.” After all, how often can you literally be handed a possibility?! | Megan Washausen
If/Then runs through March 27. For ticket information, visit www.fabulousfox.com.