MENZEL STANDING OVATION PERFORMANCE IS A HIGHLIGHT OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON
The National Tour “If/Then” from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s recent Broadway musical, brings the broadway cast to SHN’s fall series. Idina Menzel is the main reason to see this national tour of “If/Then,” about the two different doors a woman’s life could take in a big city. The star-studded cast includes Tony winner LaChanze (“The Color Purple”), Anthony Rapp (“Rent”) and James Snyder(“Cry-Baby”), all part of the Broadway team. The musical was not a huge hit in New York, but this national company is bringing some class to the hard follow story of Liz and Beth modern romance. San Francisco audiences get to see Menzel in the role, later in the tour the company will continue with a new cast.
"If/Then," story revolves around city planner Elizabeth who moves back to New York to start a new life in her late 30s. Distracted with friends and social ties, she misses a phone call that might have changed her future and from there the story splits two ways, showing us the different paths she might go down as the thoughtful Liz or the sassy career oriented Beth. Her flirt favorite an Army Doctor Josh (James Snyder) and her best friend teacher Kate (the amazing LaChanze). Her political correct friend Lucas is played by the talented Anthony Rapp. All the supporting cast from the Broadway production.
Menzel is very impressive as she moves through the paths of possibilities, some show stopping songs keep the first act lively “Here I Go” by Liz and Josh is excellent. There is some hint this might be an extension of RENT as we see some of the same undertone of grown up activists now becoming city planners and parents. To see Rapp and Menzel on stage is a fond memory of their RENT days along with their former RENT director Michael Greif. The fact that Menzels recent break up with Taye Diggs (also from RENT) could be the subtext of some this story. Choosing the right door to continue through. The second has a show stopping song by Menzel “Always Starting Over” that will bring smiles to her WICKED fans, it is a powerhouse tune that blows down the Orpheum Theatre. The sold out opening night crowd was just about on their feet.
The supporting cast is all excellent as well, directed by Michael Greif (Rent) and some jazz inspired choreography by Larry Keigwin. Mark Wendland’s set is streamlined from a subway to Brooklyn and New York projections and coffee shops. It reminded me of “Next to Normal” since some of this production was part of that Tony winning musical. No matter what door Liz goes through, having children or being a successful city planner, her “what if” thoughts always haunt her. The song “You Learn to Live Without” explores that theme of the show. Yet some of that subtext is never really thought out, as at times we can’t tell if it's Liz or Beth. Costume designer Emily Rebholz does put a pair of glasses on Beth to keep us not guessing, her other wear on the cast is all classic urban success, and looks great.
At times the story seems a bit long since the first act is not easy to follow. In the second act the story comes to life and is the better of the two hours and forty minutes. It is Menzel who keeps us glued to this show, it is a vehicle for her talent. I can’t see how this tour would exist without her. The warmth and talent she projects, even on opening night when she was clearly not feeling well, she commanded each of her solo’s and company numbers. For fans or Idina Menzel, this is a perfect evening as the crowd gives her a standing ovation at each performance. But for a pure quilty story and musical, you have to look beyond the curtain to see if you entered the correct path, and wonder IF THEN, could this have been a better musical. It runs through Dec 6th and SHN is offering a great discount for 30.00 Mez seating if you buy same day at the box office Tue wed and Thurs only. Also SHN is offering the first ever mobile lottery in San Francisco for all performances of IF/THEN! Win $25 lottery tickets (up to two tickets per winner). Just download the TodayTix app in the iOS App Store or Google Play Store and tap to enter.
By Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt,
Starring Idina Menzel
Through Dec. 6th
Running time: 2 hours, 40 minutes, one intermission
Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco
Tickets: $50-$212; 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com