If/Then

Idina Menzel and the Original Broadway Company of If/Then.
Photos by Joan Marcus
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If/Then: Choosing Between Two Roads Diverged

By John Moore

Broadway superstar Idina Menzel chose to star in the national tour of If/Then and perform in the first six cities that follow. Castmates LaChanze, Anthony Rapp and James Snyder then signed on as well.

If/Then video

If/Then is a contemporary new musical that explores how vastly changed one woman’s life might have turned out if fate and her own choices had been different. We all make decisions every day that have the potential to impact not only the course of our lives, but those closest to us.

Case in point was Menzel's consequential decision: "If Idina didn't choose to launch the tour, it wouldn't be touring," producer David Stone said flatly. "It's as simple as that." But because she did, If/Then is now believed to be the first musical of the modern Broadway era to be launching a national tour with all of its major principal cast assembled.

And Idina wouldn't want it any other way.

"What's exciting about this for me is that it is completely brand-new material," Menzel said. "But the best thing about If/Then are the people who are involved with this project. I'm smart enough to know to work with smart people."

Idina Menzel and James Snyder in If/Then.

Some of those smart people include Director Michael Greif, who discovered Menzel when he cast her as wild-child Maureen in the landmark 1996 production of Rent; Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), whose Next to Normal in 2010 became the first musical to win the Pulitzer since … well, Rent; and her Wicked producer, David Stone, who also produced Next to Normal.

"To me, it's absolutely essential that we have Idina and LaChanze and Anthony and James heading out for the first leg of the tour," Yorkey said. "Because they are paving the way for the people who will follow. And they are showing the world once again that they believe in this kind of quirky, not-entirely-traditional new show of ours. To me, that means everything."

Next to Normal was significantly boosted when Broadway star Alice Ripley chose to go out on the road with the show, Stone said. But it's incredibly rare. And even less likely with Menzel, given the rocket ship her career has been since she sang the ubiquitous anthem "Let It Go" for the hugely popular animated film, Frozen.

"The fact that Idina is now doing this tour when she has a million things pulling her in all directions …" Kitt said. "It just means a great deal."

She's doing it because there is no understating how important If/Then has become to Menzel, who has remained fiercely committed to the show from the very beginning.

"If/Then is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family," Menzel said.

LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in If/Then.

If/Then follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, who moves back to New York to restart her life in a city of infinite possibilities. But when her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, her life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as they intersect at the meeting of choice and chance.

Many women can relate, Menzel said. Starting with Menzel, who started over herself last year as a single mother in her 40s. "Shows come into your life when you need to learn something about your life that they have to teach you," she said. "If/Then put its arms around me and taught me about choices. It has taught me that you have the opportunity and the power to wake up and start your life over every single day."

But If/Then wasn't always Menzel's story. In the writer's inaugural treatment, Kitt and Yorkey imagined their protagonist to be a 25-year-old woman from Denver who moves to the Big City. The story would explore all the different paths her life might take.

Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp in If/Then.

It was Stone who suggested, "Well, wouldn't it be more interesting if she were older and coming back to New York with some baggage?" he said. The writers loved the idea—and so did Menzel. Suddenly Kitt and Yorkey found themselves writing If/Then for a singular performer "who ultimately will be recognized as one of the legendary instruments of the American musical theater," Yorkey said. "So you better make it worth her while if you are writing songs for her."

No pressure.

"To be able to write for someone like Idina is a privilege and a thrill and also a challenge," Yorkey said. "As a songwriter, it'’s like being a race-car driver and getting to take the most brilliant Porsche out on the track: You better well know how to drive it."

Kitt says that Porsche of a voice has a range so huge, "She can really go anywhere; she sings as high as the highest people can go. And then she has a wonderful richness to her low notes as well. There is just nothing that she can't do."

Including, apparently, taking her Porsche out for a few months on the road.

"I'm so thrilled to launch the show's national tour and send it off across the country and around the world," Menzel said. "I am very much looking forward to sharing this original musical with Broadway fans who weren't able to travel to New York and see it there."

Idina Menzel's quotes were compiled from various sources and publications for this story.

Reprinted with permission of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. John Moore is senior arts journalist for Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

 

SEGERSTROM HALL
Dates: January 19 – 24, 2016
Tickets: $29 and up
For tickets and information, visit SCFTA.org
or call (714) 556-2787.
Group services: (714) 755-0236

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Lead production sponsor:
BNY Mellon Wealth Management

With special underwriting from:
The Millen Family

Media Partner:
Time Warner Media

 

     

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