By Punch Preview Correspondent Lindsey Clark
We’ve all had moments in our lives that we look back on later and wonder “what if?” What if we’d made another choice, been in a different place at a different time, smiled at the person behind us in line at the grocery store, accepted that job, or moved to a new city? How would things be different if we had taken another road instead? If you believe that everything happens for a reason, the possibilities of what could be when things are left to fate are endless, and in the world premiere of the new musical If/Then at National Theatre, we discover that sometimes taking a chance is the only choice we have.
Tony Award winner Idina Menzel stars as Elizabeth, a 30-something divorcee who returns to Manhattan to start over again after holding on to a failing marriage for far too long. As someone who doesn’t believe in fate or fairy tales, she’s skeptical of having another shot at finding love and convinced that the odds of finding happiness are stacked against her. On her first day back in the city, she’s confronted with a decision that takes her life down two totally different paths, which, in a Sliding Doors-like plot, is played out as parallel lives, unfolding the “what ifs” of each choice along the way. One path sees her as Liz, pursuing her career as a city planner, quickly to a successful (albeit lonely) life where her work is her focus and she’s safe from the heartbreak that comes along with uncertainty. The other finds her taking an uncharacteristic leap into the unknown and giving a stranger – and her heart – a chance.
With the encouragement of friends Kate (Tony Award winner LaChanze) and Lucas (Anthony Rapp, who originated the role of Mark Cohen in Rent), Beth (the “path B” version of Elizabeth) agrees to go out with Josh (James Snyder) after running into him more than once around the city, and although she’s terrified to let go and fall in love again, she can’t fight fate for long. Elizabeth hits an unexpected detour that has a profound affect on both of her paths, and she once again finds herself having to start anew – but for very different reasons this time. Director Michael Greif takes the audience to a place where a world of what ifs collide, and the ride is anything but predictable.
The music and lyrics of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey are beautifully brought to life by the show’s stellar cast, but the standout number, “Always Starting Over” just about brought the house down, as Menzel’s voice easily matches the power of the words she’s singing. Last seen on Broadway in Wicked, she will return to the Great White Way when If/Then hits the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Spring of 2014. The show runs at National Theatre through December 8th – tickets are on sale now and start at $53. This season at National continues with The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, American Idiot, West Side Story included in the lineup.
As the Punch Premiere Correspondent, Lindsey covers all things music and theater related. When not writing for Pamela’s Punch, Lindsey has a seriously sweet gig as Executive Assistant at the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (www.pcah.gov). Aside from writing and seeing as much live music as possible, you can usually find her on a running trail, in front of a painting, staring at her dog, Lincoln, or hanging out with her big sister and fellow Punch Correspondent Niki Clark. Follow her on twitter @lindseykayclark. Contact Lindsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.