Magazine article Variety

Menzel Deserves a Better Option

Magazine article Variety

Menzel Deserves a Better Option

Article excerpt

In her belated return to Broadway after "Wicked," powerhouse belter Idina Menzel is sorely misused in "If/Then." "Next to Normal" writing team Brian Yorkey (who penned the pretentious book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (who composed the flaccid music) designed this concept musical as the existential dilemma of a woman weighing her choices between living two equally boring lives. This smaller-than-life show can't extinguish Menzel's largerthan-life persona, but it certainly manages to diminish her Amazonian strengths as a performer.

Like the bipolar heroine of "Next to Normal," 38-year-old Elizabeth (Menzel) is a woman at war with herself. Back in Manhattan after an unhappy divorce, she contemplates the new life - and possibly new love - she hopes to have in the city. But which one will it be? The easygoing life of "Liz," who allows herself to be guided by chance and fate and emotion? Or the self-directed life of "Beth," a careerist who uses her head and calculates her every move?

credits: A David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Fox Theatricals, Marc Platt production of a musical with BOOK AND LYRICS BY Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt.

DIRECTED by Michael Greif, sets, Mark Wend land; costumes, Emily Rebholz; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound. Brian Ronan; hair 8 wigs. David Brian Brown; orchestrations. Michael Starobin; VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS/ MUSIC COORDINATOR. Michael Keller; music director. Carmel Dean. OPENED March 30.2014. REVIEWED March 28. RUNNING TIME: 2 HOURS, 35 MIN.

cast Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, Jason Tam, Tamlka Lawrence

As the title song at the top of the show makes clear, whichever life choice Elizabeth makes - as Beth, the high-powered city planner, or as Liz, the devoted wife, mother and teacher - she'll probably always wonder, "What if.... " she took that other path. But before she can tackle that conundrum, there are a lot of decisions to make, the first of which is what to wear. Shall it be the black suit or the gray suit? Or maybe the black skirt with the gray jacket? From the visual signals supplied by costumer Emily Rebholz, it's obvious that whichever reality she picks, it's going to be drearily monotonous. …

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