I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know a lot about this musical. I’ve been bopping along to Idina Menzel’s version of “No More Wasted Time” for several years thinking it was a feminist jam. Now that I’ve actually seen “If/Then,” I will be deleting it from my playlists. Not only is this show shockingly hokey, it’s also essentially the opposite of the Bechdel Test. You’re telling me a woman left a marriage of twelve years to forge a life for herself in New York City and immediately stakes a claim on another man?
This isn’t to say that Brown Paper Box Co.’s production isn’t good. Amanda Giles is a spunky Elizabeth (who spends the show as either Liz or Beth as she lives out two different life scenarios). Bridget Adams-King is a jazzy dream as Kate, her new best pal, while Parker Guidry’s Lucas, Elizabeth’s charming old best pal and former flame, will woo any audience. These three shine brighter on the red brick wall-lined stage than the marquees of Broadway.
I would trade all the “If/Then”s in the world for a musical about Kate, Lucas and Elizabeth. And I would happily trade whatever else to see Giles, Adams-King and Guidry reprise their roles. These three are a joy in every scene. The chemistry between any grouping of these characters is, hands down, the best part of this show.
But this musical? This clearly written-by-two-men musical? It is frustrating at best and misogynistic nonsense at worst. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey really wrote a show with two parallel plots about a woman’s life and they both revolve around her love life. Is there truly no universe where a woman can foster a career without tying herself to another human being? Even in the wildest dreams of a show ALL ABOUT “What If?” The relationships with men aren’t even deep enough for us to give a damn. Elizabeth as Liz or Beth is a hollow caricature and I’m appalled that Menzel actually played her on Broadway.
Halfway through act one, you might also ask “What the Fuck” along with Liz.
How could the men behind the groundbreaking “Next to Normal” write such a trivial show? Did anyone even consider focus-grouping this before sending it off to Broadway? I’m guess not. If you want to write a musical about a woman pondering the paths of the universe, then maybe ask a woman if what you’re writing makes sense in any universe. (Amanda Finn)
Brown Paper Box Co. at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 North Southport, (773)935-6875, brownpaperbox.org, $29.50. Through February 16.