By Salomon Maya
Ah, the wonderful question of what if? We’ve all asked it of ourselves at one point in our lives. On January 6, I had the honor of attending a performance of If/Then at the Civic Theatre in downtown San Diego, presented by Broadway San Diego. The touring company included several of the original Broadway cast members, including Idina Menzel (Rent, Wicked) and Anthony Rapp (Rent, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown).
If/Then asks the age old question, what would happen if, for example, I turned right instead of left or left instead of right at a certain part of my life. If/Then introduces us to Elizabeth (played masterfully by Menzel) an urban planner as she moves back to New York from Arizona after her failed marriage. Sitting in a park at a cafe waiting for longtime friend Lucas (Rapp), Menzel meets Kate (played by the hilarious LaChanze) and is given two distinct choices. Open door A (which means ditching her friend community organizer Lucas) and follow Kate … meet Beth. Or open door B and go off with Lucas … meet Liz. From then on, If/Then allows us to see how things would turn out for Beth and Liz, taking us in a modern Alice in Wonderland-like tale of Sliding Doors.
Confused yet? Well If/Then at times can be a tad confusing … but in a good way. You’re never truly asking what is going on but for some people following the two story lines might be a bit much … especially if you decide to go to the restroom during key scenes. Menzel floored me not only with her vocals but her strong acting performance. Broadway actors sometimes can get a bad rap for overacting but Menzel just plays both Liz and Beth perfectly. As the story unfolds you truly see two distinct characters with two distinct personalities. If/Then doesn’t offer many can’t get out of my mind musical numbers likes previous musicals such as Rent or Wicked (two plays where we can see Rapp and Menzel) but some of the songs were powerful and even humorous (please get on iTunes and listen to WTF).
I left the theatre asking, does If/Then have to be a musical? It’s my opinion that its story arc is strong enough without the musical numbers. To be completely honest, I found myself so enthralled with the story that when a musical number started, I tended to yearn to be back in just the story. And I do not not like musical theatre, I actually do have a Broadway playlist on my Spotify account and will from time to time open it up and sing to my hearts content (only when alone and on the freeway to give no opportunity for someone to see me sing Music of the Night at a stoplight). The constantly moving set was a character in its own right. Set pieces doubled as a New York subway car and an entire apartment. If I had to nit pick (and of course that’s what I’m doing) the director had a great bridge which was able to lower and rise, and unfortunately it was used extensively in the beginning of the play but then sort of became an afterthought post intermission.
In conclusion, If/Then had everything a night at the theatre is supposed to have … humor, sentiment and visually stunning. Short of the rare San Diego downpour which greeted guests (so much so it flooded the Civic Theatre’s lobby and patrons had to enter from side doors) If/Then reminded me that every one of our decisions matters. And even though there may be many doors one could walk through, life has a funny ‘lil way of being cyclical and always making those decisions come full circle. Nowhere is it more evident than in If/Then.
Coming soon for Broadway San Diego is The Realishhouse Wives of San Diego (Feb. 2 –7) and Book of Mormon (Feb. 26–Mar 6). Tickets and additional information is available at www.broadwaysd.com.