What if?

“If/Then” is too generic to live up to potential


courtesy of If/Then National Tour

The Musical is energetic, but not memorable enough to make a lasting impact on audience members.

New York, true love and a role originated by Idina Menzel: From a general description, this musical is poised to be a hit. But that’s part of the problem with “If/Then”—it’s too calculated for ticket office success to be interesting.

From a plot standpoint, the musical has potential: Elizabeth (Jackie Burns) moves back to New York City after her divorce to start a new life, and a single decision sends her on two diverging paths. We follow these two versions of Elizabeth (Liz and Beth) through the next few years, and the differences and similarities could present an engaging take on fate and everyday choices. But the problems start early.

One of the most serious issues is the lack of memorable music. In one of these generic early songs, called “What If?,” Elizabeth asks herself, “Tell me how could this make any difference? How could it matter at all? How do I make such a major event out of something so small?”

Although the minor event she’s referring to changes major aspects of her life—her decision to spend the morning with one friend instead of the other eventually changes both her career and personal life—it’s so minor that it seems like a lazy trick to move the plot along. The everyday nature of this decision also has potential, but the show never bothers to address the more interesting implications of this theme. Instead, all the later choices have high stakes or seem to be decided by fate.

“I liked the divided story because it pulled me in different directions,” said Olivia Ortega, a fourth-year Case Western Reserve University student. “But near the end it got a little fuzzy and I got annoyed with it.”

The story does improve later in the show. “The plot thickened in the second act, and I got attached to the characters,” said Ortega.

However, the musical gets bogged down again, which might be inevitable for an almost three-hour show. “But they really had me for a second, I even shed some tears,” said Ortega.

The music also improves somewhat. “What the Fuck?” might not be a classic, but it adds some humor to the score. It also helps punctuate a relatable moment, as each version of Elizabeth makes a romantic choice that leads to waking up next to a stranger or her best friend.

“I’ve been there, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience had been there too,” said Ortega. The song got more laughs than any other moment in the show, but still balanced the effects of Elizabeth’s decisions well. “It’s not a super dramatic ballad, but it was cute,” said Ortega.

The cast was talented, and Burns portrayed the small differences between Beth and Liz well. Her characters are one of the stronger parts of the show, as the consistencies between the two characters help anchor the sometimes confusing storyline. “She stayed steady and true to herself,”said Ortega. “And she gave the illusion of having her life together.”

Overall, the musical didn’t deliver on its potential, especially when the talent of the cast is taken into account. “I don’t think the musical is a keeper, I think it’s a fad,” said Ortega. “I don’t think it will stand the test of time.”

Title: “If/Then”
Date: Feb. 19
Place: Connor Palace Theater
Rating: ★★☆☆☆