Jess Guida ’19/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Everyone makes choices from day to day, and for the most part, are left with what could have been and what is. However, If/Then, the musical from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Next To Normal), takes a look at “what if?”
The story follows Elizabeth (Jackie Burns) as she explores the two very different paths that her life could have gone down–one as Liz, the other as Beth. As Liz, she navigates finding love and heartbreak. However, Beth is extremely focused on her job and making an impact in New York City. As their stories start to unfold, the question of “what if she had chosen a different path” begins to find its answer. The resolution isn’t focused on if one choice was better than the other, though. The audience is not left with an answer which can seem like having a lack of closure, but there is not closure to give. There is only life, and that is what made the musical the incredible journey that it was.
While the back-and-forth story could have easily fallen apart or been terribly confusing, If/Then is so beautifully crafted and easy to follow. The transition’s between Beth and Liz’s paths were seamless and fluid, so the audience never has to focus on whose story is being told or what is happening. There is only time to watch the beautiful story unfolding on stage.
This production didn’t rely heavily on choreography or movement, but it utilized humor, strong emotions, and some serious belting to make an impact. Among those serious belters were Tamyra Gray and Janine DiVita, Kate and Anne respectively. Both women brought the laughs with their performances as lovebirds and Liz/Beth’s best friends. Their duet “Love While You Can,” had enough energy to power the Boston Opera House. The two voices perfectly blended together, and they had enough strength behind each of their performances to carry the entire show if need be.
Also acting among these two women was Anthony Rapp as Lucas. His performance as Elizabeth’s old college flame showed his versatility and skill in a very unique way. On one path, he was the friend pining for Beth, but on another, he was in love with a man Liz had introduced him to. While Rapp is pretty well known for his past musical credits, he brought a surprising amount of wit and humor to the role that his cast members seemed to feed off of. He perfectly blended into his character, making the performance all the more enjoyable. There was never a moment out of character.
The ensemble of If/Then did a respectable job keeping up the tempo of the musical, and effortlessly creating scene changes. Perhaps the most incredible and chilling performance, though, came from the lead, Jackie Burns. The role of Elizabeth was originally played by Idina Menzel on Broadway. Menzel is pretty much an icon in the theater world, and she’s known for her signature belt. Following in her footsteps could have been daunting, but watching Burns in this role left nothing to be desired. She brought strong emotion into every single scene, whether it was meant to be positive or negative. This incredible actress held the power to bring tears, goose bumps, and even laugh-out-loud moments. The talent in skill in her voice would have been enough to keep the entire production moving had everything else been a train wreck. Oddly enough, she bears a striking resemblance to Menzel, but there is a purity and softness about Jackie Burns, one that made her such a joy to watch. It’s clear that no one else could fit into this role quite as well as Burns does. It’s a pleasure to see her perform.
If/Then is definitely worth giving a chance. It perfectly exemplifies the beauty of live theater, and it shouldn’t be missed!