Posted in Anthony Rapp, Brian Yorkey, Idina Menzel, Kinky Boots, LaChanze, Michael Grief, moving musical drama, Pippin, Tom Kitt

If, then …The Tonys

We are still catching up with the 2013 Tony winners here at T and B On The Aisle. A case in point:  http://tbontheaisleatheaterdiary.blogspot.com/2014/04/matilda-is-just-right.html. Another is “Pippin,” winner as the best musical revival of 2013, along with Andrea Martin for a supporting role, and the extraordinary Patina Miller for “Best Actress in a Musical.” “Pippin” is still at the Music Box, but Patina Miller has moved on, replaced by Ciara Renee as the coyly named “Leading Player.” It’s likely that strongmen and circus acts were more revolutionary theatricalities in the 1972 original Broadway production in which Ben Vereern starred. Pippin, himself, is a silly twit overly impressed with his exceptionalism, and well-played by Kyle Dean Massey (in the current cast). He lacks the naive charm of, say, Candide, but Annie Potts is charming as his acrobatic grandmother.

Billy Porter, Daniel Stewart Sherman, and Marcus Neville (right) Photo (c) Matthew Murphy

On the other hand, “Kinky Boots” fulfills the razzmatazz its many Tony statuettes promised. Billy Porter, its rags to riches–or chorus to leading man at any rate, star is as fresh and peppy in his award winning role as Lola as if he hadn’t been doing this for over  year.  “Kinky Boots,” with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper 2013 Tony,) and a book by Harvey Fierstein at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, is a lively heart-warming joyful musical extravaganza.

Idina Menzel center with cast of “If/Then” from the creative team of Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Here we are in 2014, however so let’s put Idina Menzel at the top of the slate of Tony possibles in the bifurcated role of Liz/Beth, along with her quirky sometimes confusing show, “If/Then,” from the creative team of Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Tom Kitt (music.) (Note that Kitt and Yorkey and Menzel are nominees, but the show did not make the cut. That’s a shame.)

LaChanze and Anthony Rapp in a scene from “If/Then.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

“If/Then,” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre,  is about choice, chance, fate, happenstance, and possibility. It’s also thought-provoking and dynamic. Anthony Rapp, as Lucas, Liz/Beth’s best friend and maybe lover, is charmingly annoying, but in a good way. LaChanze is perky and positive as the accepting and open Kate.

Tamika Lawrence, Jenn Colella, LaChanze and Idina Menzel.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Idina Menzel is a fierce and resolute performer; certainty pours out with every line and each note. These qualities add to the interest of her role as the vacillating Liz/Beth– two women in one. In “If/Then,” each path she might take is fully played out. The choices are all laid out for her and us.

Jerry Dixon, Ann Sanders and Idina Menzel. Photo by Joan Marcus.

One of these paths has Liz marry the hunky and handsome Josh (James Snyder,) whom she meets by chance at a park and runs into on a subway. The other has Beth flirting with her boss, Steve (Jerry Dixon.)

It’s a nice touch that she is a city planner, designing the pathways for so many lives in the big city. “If/Then” is an unapologetically urban, New York City centric musical drama. It’s smart, well-paced, –under the very able direction of Michael Grief–, beautifully designed–with a truly novel and delightful set by Mark Wendland–, wonderfully acted by a large, tight ensemble. It is also unlike any other musical play.

If I hadn’t seen it, Then I would have missed an exciting theatrical experience. Michael Grief does everything he can to clarify the dichotomies of the script. Pay close attention, but don’t overthink it. Enjoy  “If/Then” for the wonderful ride it is.

For more information about “If/Then,” please visit http://www.ifthenthemusical.com/. Also see my Tony predictions at VP (now The Wright Wreport), and here at TandB.

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