On Stage: If/Then

“If/Then” is a new musical, a confused musical, and it skates by largely thanks to the presence of two top Broadway talents and a reality TV contestant.

Written by Tom Kitt and Bryan Yorkey, the show opened on Broadway in March of 2014 and closed a year later. The First National Tour brings with it original cast member Anthony Rapp (best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in “Rent”) along with Jackie Burns (best known for playing Elphaba in the first national tour of “Wicked,” then later on Broadway) and Tamyra Gray (a standout from the first season of “American Idol.”

The show tackles the tricky question of “What if?” and examines how simple acts can dramatically alter the course of a person’s life.

Jackie Burns plays Elizabeth, a 40-year-old divorced woman who has returned to New York City to start over. She makes a new friend, Kate (Tamyra Gray), a kindergarten teacher with more spirit and energy than her students combined, and connects with an old friend, Lucas (Anthony Rapp).

If/Then

Anthony Rapp and Jackie Burns in a scene from “If/Then.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Kate sees Elizabeth as a Liz — free-spirited and ready for fun. Lucas sees Elizabeth as Beth, more restrained yet politically active. This fateful night in New York becomes the divergence point for the story. Kate wants Liz to go with her and listen to a musician while Lucas wants Beth to join him at a protest. Rather than choose one or the other, Elizabeth does both and the audience follows along as we watch the ramifications of each decision play out.

Confused? You’re not alone. Instead of telling one version in the first act and the other in the second act, the play tells both stories at once, weaving back and forth through Liz’s and Beth’s experiences. Confused? You’re not alone. While the show is generally easy to follow there were times when I wasn’t sure which version of the story I was watching.

Still, it’s rare to be mentally challenged by musical theater so I found it entertaining. And while the music isn’t particularly memorable the musical performances were. Burns can really sing and she’s given many opportunities to shine. Rapp continues to have a compelling stage presence.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would’ve enjoyed “If/Then” with a different cast, but as long as Burns, Rapp and Gray are on stage it’s worth checking out.

“If/Then” plays through March 27 at the Fox Theatre. http://www.fabulousfox.com/

 

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