From when I was about 14 on I knew Rent and I’ve loved Rent and I’ve loved Anthony Rapp in Rent. And then I got the audio version of his book “Without You” and I listened to it and I’d spend hours of crying my eyes out listening to him talk about the death of Jonathan Larson.
So seeing Anthony Rapp in a Broadway show always was a dream of mine and when it was announced that he (and Idina Menzel) was cast in If/Then it was kind of a no-brainer. I needed to see it. End of discussion.
Plus I love Next to Normal and the same creative team was doing something new? Hello?
That’s a big chunk of why I ended up in rear orchestra in the second to last preview of If/Then.
With this show – as we say in German – ist der Name Programm (the title says it all). It covers two versions of one life, kicked off by a If…then-construction.
If I go with person a, then this will happen.
If I go with person b, then that will happen. Just like one of these childrens’ books you can choose the storyline by going to certain pages.
The scenes change with various speeds, only details marking the ‘other’ side of a character (two nickname variations of Idina Menzel’s character’s name Elizabeth and glasses) – the most exciting one probably being the birthday-party/not-party-scene towards the end of the first act.
In this concept the show is very interesting and I got excited just looking at them gliding from scene to scene, from storyline to storyline. I read many comments about Idina Menzel really pulling this show together and keeping it alive for the while being, but I actually think that the rest of the cast is doing the ‘work’ of keeping it tight and creating the scenes while the character ofr Elizabeth more of less stumbles, runs through her live – that’s not meant to express anything bad, but to say: That is – to an extent – the idea of the show (to me). Seeing how our lives change with the people you are with and the decisions you make because of them – and because the character of Liz/Beth stays the same (it’s the same actress after all…) the others NEED to work more.
(Does this even make sense at all? To other people than me?)
In a way they a telling two different stories throughout the show and around the middle of act two this – in my opinion – becomes a little bit of a problem. According to some drama theories the dramatic climax is supposed to be somewhat around the beginning of the last third of a play/show/story. If you have two stories, you need to have two dramatic climaxes, right? These two stories are supposed to be very parallel to each other, and basically happening both at the same time – but on stage they can’t happen at the same time because actors only can be in one scene at a time. That’s why you need to tell them scene after scene after scene alternating between the two stories (at least that’s what’s happening) – as a result of this problem with this solution you have 20, 25 minutes of endless drama in two different ways during act two. And especially since the first dramatic climax is so sad and dramatic the second one really loses its intensity – which is sad as well, but in another way.
Having sad this I really need to state that I liked how contemporary it was. It was very right now and non-fantasy-effect-y and I liked that very much – I guess it’s something I don’t really see that often in musical theatre. Regarding the music I can’t really say that much but that I am very happy the album is already recorded and to be released in early June.
I really don’t want to say too much about the actors except for the fact that I had a blast watching them – especially LaChanze and Anthony Rapp who both play the more determined characters of the show.
Have you seen the show? What did you think?
Or what do you think about more ‘realistic’ contemporary shows in which the plot basically takes place here and now?
Do you like them? Or not? And why?