'If/Then' at the Fox Explores Destiny and Chance in Alternate Lives

By Newmark, Judith | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 17, 2016 | Go to article overview

'If/Then' at the Fox Explores Destiny and Chance in Alternate Lives


Newmark, Judith, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


The musical "If/Then," which just opened at the Fox Theatre, may sound puzzling when you first hear its offbeat story. But when you see it, things clear up quickly: "If/Then" is the daughter of "Rent."

It has the same director, Michael Greif. On Broadway, it starred two of the breakout artists of "Rent," Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp. Here, Jackie Burns plays the pivotal role of Elizabeth, while Rapp reprises his part as her pal Lucas.

There are even a number of peculiar jokes about the inadequacy of Phoenix, a curious counterpoint to the song in "Rent" that celebrates "Santa Fe."

Most of all, in many ways it's about the same people: a devoted group of friends, of assorted ambitions and races and sexual orientations, who largely fulfill one another's need for family.

This being a "daughter" show, however, its characters are older. Instead of the very youthful "Rent" crowd, "If/Then" deals with people in their 30s and 40s, mostly established but still wondering about their choices in work, love and life.

Elizabeth stands at the center of this group. But the show's creators, composer Tom Kitt and writer Brian Yorkey, put her there in a very odd fashion. Drawing on science fiction and the mathematics of chance, they allow their heroine to lead two different, parallel lives. Neither is more "real" than the other.

In the play's opening scene, urban planner Elizabeth newly divorced and approaching 40 has just arrived in Manhattan to start over. In a park, she meets her college friend Lucas and her new friend and neighbor Kate (Tamyra Gray, from the first season of "American Idol"). Then, her life splits in two.

As Liz, she finds love and contentment with a handsome army doctor, Josh (Matthew Hydzik), whom she meets in the park. She wears glasses, and her world is dominated by blue lights.

As Beth, she embarks on a dazzling career in urban planning, encouraged by an old boyfriend (Daren A. …

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