Broadway in Atlanta has been blessing Atlanta with copious amounts of awesome in the form of musicals, theatre pieces both old and new, and a healthy range of works on tour. This go-round, they delivered a fairly new broadway project in If/Then the Musical.
Socially identified as the “Idina Menzel Musical” (she played the lead on broadway and part of the tour) we were there front and center at The Fox Theatre opening night. It was good to see such a nice crowd for this barely two year old musical. One thing you’ll notice is The Fox Theatre just recently started using metal detectors, so consider that as you’re factoring your arrival times for the show.
The story begins with 38 year-old Elizabeth (Jackie Burns replaced Menzel as the lead as of January 27, 2016) who moves back to New York City from Phoenix after a bad marriage. Two friends of hers meet by chance at Madison Square Park, both awaiting her arrival; Kate (Tamyra Gray), a kindergarten teacher and Lucas (Anthony Rapp), a community organizer. Everything that takes place after this opening scene leads to an up-close analyzation of choice, fate, and happenstance.
Now anyone that knows the South, knows that it is nowhere near as progressive as the rest of the country. One thing that caught my eye was the number of taped notes that could’ve easily been missed that said something to the tune of “Warning, you’re about to see a production with adult themes.” Adult themes? It was enough to raise an eyebrow but I carried on because of the very broad message. Once the show commenced it took a mere 15 minutes to see signs and hear reactions to that very warning.
If/Then the Musical is set in modern-day New York City, and they were not afraid to showcase that. So first off, you need to know that this probably isn’t one you’d want to bring your kids to, as there is hefty load of cussing. To further this, one of Jackie Burns’ comical and well-received numbers was titled “What the f***?” So just a few minutes in you’ll get your first sprinkle of cursing, topped with a helping of gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters sandwiched with sexual tensions and adultery. I’m not sure the audience was ready.
One thing I’ll give the production is that the singing was great. I enjoyed Jackie Burns in the lead role and her voice was powerful. At certain points, I thought Tamyra Gray carried the show when the story fell flat as her singing and comedy was a hit with those in attendance. The set design was very creative as the cast took us from Madison Square Park to an office building and even onboard a trans-atlantic flight from London to New York City.
The only thing working against the If/Then team was the aforementioned themes in a region like the South and unfortunately time. With a start-time of 7:30pm the first intermission wasn’t until around 8:50pm. I remember a friend texting me onboard her flight back to Atlanta and responding with “Ok intermission is over” at approximately 9:12pm. Act I definitely felt like it was way too long and although Act II felt shorter, the damage had already been done. I noticed a small number of people here and there leaving during the first Act, but after Act II began, I saw people all over the place heading towards the exit. While the story was one of relevance, it just took entirely too long to execute.
I give If/Then the Musical a 7 out of 10. There’s laughter, there’s great singing, there’s real-life, relatable questions and content, but all of that is overshadowed by the three hours of show-time. You can buy tickets HERE . It runs though Sunday, August 14. If you truly want to enjoy the show I suggest a daytime showing.