Theater Review: If/Then

In late 2015 Jenn and I went on a shopping spree for theater tickets. It’s something we did a lot of early in our relationship. We spent many Friday and Saturday nights at a theater in the round in Downtown Riverside. The theater is something that the older we get the more we seem to enjoy. We waited for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and purchased season passes at both Segerstrom and South Coast Repertory and also bought tickets for two separate performances outside of the season passes. In total from January to May we have tickets to go see eight performances. Our first was If/Then a musical set in New York at Segerstrom Hall.

When we bought the season pass at Segerstrom there were two performances we wanted to see and it just so happened that If/Then was the third ticket for the package. Neither of us had done any research beforehand and it was only upon arriving at the theater a couple of minutes before the 7:30PM show time that we learned it starred Idina Menzel of Frozen fame. In fact, as Idina came on stage a little after 7:30 the entire nearly sold out theater erupted in applause. I knew Frozen was big but the reaction of the crowd was mesmerizing. Each time Idina took the stage you could see the crowd perk up.

If/Then is musical set in New York about the different paths life can take. Idina’s character has just got divorced and has moved from Phoenix back to Manhattan. When she arrives in Manhattan she is in a park and two life paths devolve from there. One in which she meets a man from the Army who she falls in love with and another where she ignores the soldier and pursues a career in urban development. The way in which the directors were able to have these two parallel stories run and intertwine was magical. There were slight lighting and scene cues that made it easy to understand which path Idina’s character was on.

If/Then is a modern musical. It’s progressive in almost all of its viewpoints. It was great to see so much LGBT representation on stage. Those were some of my favorite moments of the production. The one drawback was the odd choice to make it such a distinct line between Idina’s character to pursue a career and be in a long-term relationship with a family. In 2016 it’s sort of weird that If/Then felt like it took a bit of a 1950’s approach. This is something that irked Jenn when we got out for intermission and is something I wouldn’t have noticed without her mentioning it.

If/Then has great music. But even more then any other musical I’ve seen it has a great story and message behind it. In a lot of ways If/Then reminded me of one of my favorite movies About Time. It takes a very serious look at life and the choices we make and why we make them. In a lot of ways If/Then was a coming of age story but instead of a teenage girl, Idina was in her 30’s with all the baggage and experience that comes along with it. At the end of each number the crowd would come alive and you could tell that people were eating up the performance. When the final number ended and the cast came to bow for the audience, the entire theater erupted with one of the grandest standing ovations I’ve ever been apart of. There was just so much to love for If/Then. The singing was phenomenal. The story was one of the best I’ve seen. Although we had no idea what we were getting into, If/Then could potentially be one of the best performance we see in 2016.