By Jennifer Bennett
As part of a partnership with the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, I received tickets to attend If/Then in exchange for social media promotion and show review. All opinions are those of the writers here at Orangespoken.
If then… again and again. There are those moments in life when we think to ourselves what if… what if I had taken the bus instead of the train? What if I had taken that job instead of staying comfortable where I am? What if I instead of taking action you did nothing at all? At some point in our lives we ponder the “if/then” possibilities and this musical tells the story of one such woman who asks what if…
IF/THEN is a contemporary new musical that follows two distinct story lines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in that city of infinite possibilities. When her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, Elizabeth’s life splits in to two parallel paths. IF/THEN follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance. (The Straz, March 30, 2016)
Act one opens with the introduction of Elizabeth singing “What If” and you are immediately swept into her world. The ongoing battle between fate and choices is the running theme. Is it fate that leads us into and out of people’s lives or do we make the choice to stay or go? If/Then allows the audience to experience and embrace the struggle and decide for themselves if it is fate intervening or if choice after choice is guiding the characters.
Jackie Burns plays Elizabeth, a woman on the verge of turning 40 whose smallest decisions or most random occurrences will impact her world in ways she never dreamed possible. Burns recently played the role of Elizabeth in IF/THEN on Broadway, and has also played the iconic role of Elphaba in Wicked, both on Broadway and in the first national tour. She starred in the 2009 Tony Award-winning revival of Hair, and also appeared in the original Off-Broadway cast of Rock of Ages. (The Straz, March 30, 2016) Jackie allows the audience to relate and feel every moment with her. She has a beautiful and amazingly strong voice and her acting is perfection!
When my daughter, who is a musical theatre student at Blake High School, realized Anthony Rapp was part of the tour we were even more thrilled to be seeing If/Then! Anthony Rapp plays Lucas, an old college friend of Elizabeth, who reconnects with her when she moves back to New York City. Rapp is best known for originating the role of Mark Cohen in Jonathan Larson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Rent. His other Broadway credits include his Broadway debut in Precious Sons with Judith Ivey and Ed Harris, for which he received an Outer Critics Circle Award and a Drama Desk nomination, the original company of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation and the revival of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (The Straz, March 30, 2016) Anthony was as wonderful as we anticipated and he brought Lucas to life in our hearts.
Matthew Hydzik plays Josh, a handsome doctor and army reservist who meets Elizabeth on her first day back in New York City. Hydzik’s Broadway credits include Side Show, West Side Story and Grease, to name a few. His national tour credits include Rent, Fame, Grease and Flashdance. (The Straz, March 30, 2016) Matthew will make you instantly fall in love with Josh! The song “Hey Kid” will cause you to fall deeper in love with this character.
Tamyra Gray, who plays Kate, an elementary school teacher and Elizabeth’s spirited new neighbor, is best known as one of the top four finalists of the first season of American Idol. Gray is no stranger to Broadway having made her Broadway debut in Bombay Dreams in 2004, followed by playing Mimi Marquez in Rent. She penned the songs “I Believe” for Fantasia Barrino and “You Thought Wrong” for Kelly Clarkson. (The Straz, March 30, 2016) Fun, energetic, hopeful, Kate reminds us that each day is worth appreciating and the universe may just have a plan for us!The staging and choreography are modern and remarkable. This story of two lives being told simultaneously is so well written and directed that there was no point in the show where we were unsure which life we were part of. I will warn you though, bring tissues! I do not want to spoil anything by telling you why but I can say that I wish someone had warned me.
In the end there is a simple moral to the tale of Liz/Beth and that is we cannot spend time looking back when we cannot change our past and wasting a moment trying to do so is just that; a waste. No matter which path we choose the other option isn’t better or worse; just different. You will laugh and you will cry and this is a good thing. If/Then makes you feel and this is what theatre is about! You will ponder your own life, choices, fate, experiences, and wonder what if and this too is good because when we look back we are reminded of how we got to where we are and just how lucky we are to have experienced our life thus far.
Get your tickets today and do not let this show pass you by! If/Then is a must see!
IF/THEN, will play the Straz Center’s Morsani Hall, May 17-22. Performances are Tuesday-Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Regularly priced tickets are $40-$95, and may be purchased by calling 813.229.STAR (7827) or 800.955.1045 outside Tampa Bay, in person at the Straz Center Ticket Office or online at www.strazcenter.org. Handling fees will apply. For more information about the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts and its upcoming events, please visit www.strazcenter.org.