Have you ever wondered how your life might have changed if you’d made a different, seemingly insignificant choice? what if you’d gone out instead of stayed home… stayed for coffee instead of left early… zigged instead of zagged? That’s the premise of the hit Broadway musical “If/Then,” now playing at the Fisher Theatre.
Elizabeth is a woman who has returned to NYC after a failed marriage in Phoenix. Her friend Kate, who knows her as Liz, encourages her to put herself out there and find her one true love. Elizabeth’s activist friend Lucas, who calls her Beth, advocates for her true calling as an urban planner who can make a difference in shaping a Manhattan that works better for everyone. The battle lines are seemingly drawn between the head and the heart. From that point forward, “If/Then” plays out both scenarios in alternating, sometimes simultaneous scenes featuring Liz/Beth. And it is absolutely fascinating to see how well it works and how pleasantly it messes with your head.
In one world, “Liz” meets and eventually falls for reservist Josh—who has finished his second tour of duty and ready to do his residency as a trauma unit surgeon. Liz misses the phone call that meant a dream-job opportunity and settles into life as a teacher.
In the parallel universe, “Beth” meets but blows off Josh and takes a meeting with an old grad school friend who gets her a key job in Manhattan’s urban planning department. This launches her on an influential, highly successful career. Adding to the complex story-telling, we see that every decision made by Liz/Beth impacts her closest friends and the directions their lives take.
Both versions of Elizabeth deal with love and loss; both second guess the choices they’ve made. And both realize that, come what may, the imperative to take certain risks, even if it means starting over, are choices that engage both the head and the heart.
It’s easy to see why this complex, thoughtful and engaging play was named New York Magazine’s “Best Musical of the Year.” The show is a collaborative product of the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical, “Next to Normal,” with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt, and direction by Michael Greif. It has everything we love about Broadway shows while somehow ducking that ersatz dialog that is the bane of so many shows, even those we love.
The story is unique, the dialog is clever and witty, and the songs are spectacular – the kind that make you run out and buy the original cast recording. And the cast – including two leads from the original Broadway show – know how to bring out the goosebumps. Jackie Burns, who took over the role of Elizabeth from Idina Menzel, has serious pipes and knows how to deliver a laugh line with perfect punch. Anthony Rapp, also from the Broadway cast, plays her best friend (with benefits) Lucas. Rapp is one of those amazing theatrical singers who somehow knows just how to color his vocals with the character’s distinct personality. Tamyra Gray, who plays Elizabeth’s free-spirit neighbor Kate, has her own fan base, which dates back to her performance as a finalist in the first season of “American Idol.” And Matthew Hydzik, with a long list of Broadway credits, delivers the looks and the sweet tenor vocals we require of a convincing love interest.
Also featured are Janine DiVita, who plays Anne, Daren A. Herbert as Stephen, and Marc de la Cruz as David. The gifted ensemble includes: English Bernhardt, Charissa Bertels, Xavier Cano, Trey Ellett, Kyra Faith, Corey Greenan, Cliffton Hall, Deedee Magno Hall, Tyler McGee, Joseph Morales, Emily Rogers, and Alicia Taylor Tomasko. They are backed by a terrific orchestra under the baton of Kyle C. Norris.
The modular set design by Mark Wendland uses projected backdrops (designed by Peter Nigrini and Dan Scully) to orient various scenes in key Manhattan neighborhoods, while the modular set design ingeniously aligns with the bifurcated plotline. Lighting Design is by Kenneth Posner, Sound Design is by Brian Ronan, Costume Design is by Emily Rebholz, with Wig and Hair design by David Brian Brown, Vocal Arrangements are by Annmarie Milazzo, and the Musical Coordinator is Michael Keller.
“If/Then” runs at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre through April 10, 2016. Tickets can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations, by phone at 1-800-982-2787, or online at the Broadway In Detroit website. Performances are scheduled for Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 p.m., Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. The show on Sunday April 3 at 7:30 p.m. will be a special open-captioned performance.
Tickets for “If/Then” range from $35 to $90 and parking in the adjacent facility is free. The Fisher Theatre is located at 3011 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit in the historic Fisher Building.