BWW Review: IF/THEN at Stagecrafters Brings You Along On A Worthwhile Emotional Journey
Through February 17th, you can catch the recent Broadway musical If/Then at Royal Oak's Baldwin Theatre. If/Then, originally starring Idina Menzel as Elizabeth, finished its 401 performance-run on Broadway on March 22, 2015 and followed up with a national tour that passed through Detroit in April 2016. Along with being nominated for two 2015 Tony Awards, its original Broadway production was commended among critics and audiences alike for being a rare original musical in an age of adaptations. Written by the duo behind the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, If/Then is yet another unique, very human story that everyone can find themselves in.
The plot of If/Then is relatively simple, but it plays out in a complex way. Elizabeth, a recent divorcee, returns to New York after spending 12 years in Phoenix. In the same park at the same time, she reconnects with one of her old college friends, Lucas, and meets up with one of her new friends, Kate. She's met with a choice: does she seek out new and exciting experiences as "Liz," or does she work on advancing her professional career as "Beth?" Following these two different storylines, we learn the consequences of both choices and discover the power that a single decision can have on your life.
As one might expect, following two separate storylines might be challenging for the average theatregoer. To combat this, the original production of If/Then utilized two methods to separate the two storylines. First, "Liz" wore glasses, and "Beth" did not. Second, each storyline was color-coded. Stagecrafters' If/Then took inspiration from the original production and incorporated those very same methods. Not only did this make it easier to distinguish between the two storylines, but it was extremely reminiscent of the original Broadway staging. To someone who saw both the Broadway production and the national tour, it felt like coming home again.
Though the set and lighting design were beautiful in their simplicity, the true standouts of Stagecrafters' If/Then were the actors themselves. Lynette Yeager took on a tough role in Elizabeth, not only because of the physical demands of the character but also because of the large shoes she had to fill. Despite the odds, she succeeds in triumph. Her Elizabeth is strong-willed yet vulnerable, and it was a pleasure to watch her journey lead up to her eleven o'clock number, "Always Starting Over". If you see this production of If/Then for anything, it's to see Yeager nail that song.
The actors playing the side roles were spectacular as well. Upon closing your eyes, you would think that you were seeing original Broadway cast member Anthony Rapp play Lucas instead of Christopher Smith. He embodied the character of Lucas so perfectly, as did Jason Bowen with Josh and Kaela Green with Kate. Bowen's charismatic Josh made the audience laugh and cry, especially during his standout number, "Hey, Kid". Moreover, Green's performance as Kate was positively electrifying. She took this supporting role with a strong personality and gave it the power of a leading role. You can certainly look forward to her signature song, "It's a Sign", as well as one of her later and more emotional numbers, "Love While You Can". It will no doubt be a delight to see what Green, Bowen, Smith, and Yeager do next.
Directed by Stagecrafters alum Rodel Salazar, If/Then is a production not to be missed, especially if you appreciate original musicals. Salazar's production will take you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, and it's absolutely worth the price of admission.
If/Then runs through February 17th on Stagecrafters' Main Stage in Royal Oak. For more information and tickets, visit www.stagecrafters.org.
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