“If/Then” – ASU Gammage

This review aired on KBAQ January 14, 2016


Broadway Across America – Arizona, ASU Gammage
Tempe, AZ

It’s a treat for local theatergoers to see a Broadway musical shortly after its New York run.  It’s especially lucky when the four critically acclaimed original leads reprise their roles here.  Such is the case of 2014s “If/Then,” with New York stars Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, and James Snyder intact.

“If/Then” was written for Menzel.  It’s a none-too-dynamic biographical view of Menzel’s own life challenges hidden in a lightly veiled story about Elizabeth, an urban planner.  Tom Kitt’s score is filled with several soaring solo songs that allow Menzel to show off her many musical gifts while the book scenes let her work her acting chops.  On opening night at ASU Gammage, a large contingency of Menzel’s fans cheered so much on her entrance that the performance was stopped until the star, struggling with Gammage’s miserable acoustics, screamed out her dialogue to get the show started again.  Menzel deserves the praise she’s received for her “If/Then” role that tries to balance the character’s professional life with her romantic needs and her parental desires while exploring the consequences of her actions.  Elizabeth is a stereotypical contemporary opportunist who tackles several challenges and spends the second act questioning what she’s done.

Surrounding Menzel are three other original performers.  LaChanze plays her close friend Kate, a self-assured confidant.  Anthony Rapp is her gay pal Lucas whom Elizabeth sets up with David whom Lucas marries.  James Snyder’s Josh, the final original Broadway star, is the man Elizabeth marries.

Unfortunately, Brian Yorkey’s book meanders in telling the straight-forward story including an extraneous second act scene where a plane Elizabeth is flying on crashes signaling audiences that Elizabeth values the lives around her.  The show has already told us this so it wastes time but gives Menzel another big song moment.

Without Menzel’s star power, “If/Then” is a nothing musical with an oft repeated message that continues through Sunday.  For tickets, call the Ticketmaster box office at 800-982-2787 or order online at www.asugammage.com.

Grade: C

On top of the weak musical, the usual Gammage problems plague “If/Then.”  Gammage acoustics just received $1 million in improvements but much of “If/Then’s” dialogue was incomprehensible.  Fine tuning is necessary to really fix Gammage’s miserable sound.

And why doesn’t Gammage honor its stated 7:30 performance starting time?  The opening performance was delayed 15 minutes and, even with the late curtain, Gammage still allows late patrons to scramble for seats after the curtain rises annoying on-time audiences.  If Gammage wants to be the local Broadway house, why aren’t Broadway rules that shows start on time and make late comers wait until the intermission to be seated enforced?

One Response to ““If/Then” – ASU Gammage”

  1. Anne Till said:

    Jan 15, 16 at 00:19

    Menzel was sick on Wednesday night so there was a sub.