Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

If/Then
National Tour
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's review of My Mañana Comes and Patrick's review of Shakespeare Goes to War


Idina Menzel
Photo by Joan Marcus
San Francisco is playing host to Idina Menzel and company in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's new musical If/Then. The touring production has much the same cast as it did on Broadway, where it played for 401 performances and 29 previews. The Broadway production received mostly mixed reviews, with the agreement being that the cast excelled but the score and book were somewhat blurred. Idina Menzel got great reviews along with LaChanze, James Snyder, and Anthony Rapp. The strong box office seemed to be due to the cast rising above the script. You won't find a better cast of singers and performers than those in this touring company.

First let's get the book (also by Brian Yorkey) out of the way. Elizabeth is a middle-aged divorcee who moves to New York. We see her explore two separate life/career paths, and there the story gets muddled. In one life she is Beth, who has an award-winning career in the city planner's office, and relationships with her married boss and her bi-sexual friend; in the other life she is Liz, who settles for a teaching job but meets a handsome doctor with whom she has two children. Both of these paths develop in consecutive scenes and even change mid-song with different lighting.

The score, with music by Kitt and lyrics by Yorkey, is enjoyable enough, especially when Idina Menzel sings "What the Fuck?" and the powerful "Always Starting Over" or when Anthony Rapp and Mark Delacruz sing "Best Worst Mistake." However, I am sorry to say that this score does not compare to their score for Next to Normal which is far superior.

Let's face it, the real star here is Idina Menzel and she certainly delivers a powerhouse performance that overcomes the hollowness of book. The star that has been described as a modern day "Ethel Merman." She certainly has the powerful voice of the beloved Broadway star. The writing team has given her dynamo ballads that her fans will love. She rocks in her 11 O'clock number "Always Starting Over." It's almost worth the price of admission.

Idina Menzel gets solid backup from original castmates LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, and James Snyder. LaChanze, who portrays Liz/Beth's kindergarten-teacher pal Kate, gives a glowing performance. Her voice is passionately charged, especially on the songs "It's a Sign" and "A Map of New York." Anthony Rapp is excellent as Lucas the bi-sexual friend of Liz/Beth. He displays vibrant vocal chops singing "You Don't Need to Love Me." James Snyder gives an outstanding performance as Josh, the doctor/soldier who marries a pregnant Liz. He has a muscularly resonant voice in "You Never Know" and "Hey Kid." Marc Delacruz is splendid as Lucas's boyfriend and he has first-rate vocal chops in his duet with Lucas, "Best Worst Mistake."

Larry Keigwin's choreography is energy driven. There is a soaring Greek chorus in many of the scenes and they add to the storytelling. Mark Wendland's set design is a tiered platform that bisects the stage, with wonderful large projections by Peter Nigrini and Dan Scully of New York City. Emily Rebholz's sleek costumes are very fashionable. Carmel Dean's orchestra handles the score quite well and they are an asset to the singers on stage.

If/Then runs through December 6, 2015, at SHN Orpheum Theatre at 1192 Market and Hyde & 8th Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 888-746-1799 or visit www.shnsf.com. For more information on the tour, visit ifthenthemusical.com.

Coming up next is A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder opening December 1 and running through December 27 at SHN's Golden Gate Theatre, followed by Jersey Boys opening at the SHN Orpheum Theatre on January 20th and running to February 14th, then Dirty Dancing at SHN Golden Gate Theatre opening on February 23 and running through March 20th.


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