Chicago Theatre Review
The Road Not Taken
If/Then – Broadway in Chicago
If a person had the chance to go back in his life and relive a significant moment all over again, things would undoubtedly be quite different. The rest of his entire existence would be changed. In this fascinating musical, Elizabeth, an urban city planner, meets two friends in a New York City park. Her old friend Lucas, a bisexual buddy from her college days, suggests that she should reclaim her nickname from college, Beth. Her new friend Kate, a lesbian kindergarten teacher, tells Elizabeth she should go by the name, Liz. In that moment the story breaks in two. While Beth leaves with Lucas to join him at a protest against a development in Brooklyn, Liz stays with Kate to enjoy a park musician where she also meets Josh, a young doctor returning home from his tour of duty. Throughout the musical, Elizabeth’s life unfolds as two tales, depicting the if…and the then…two sides of the events of her life.
Brian Yorkey fashioned a clever story, but one that’s ultimately difficult to follow. After a few minutes of trying to keep the two stories straight, the audience usually just sits back and allows it all to unfold, never entirely sure whether they’re watching the story of Liz or Beth. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter in order to appreciate this show. Tom Kitt’s music, with lyrics by Brian Yorkey, (the shared winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Next to Normal”) is enjoyable, but only few songs really stand out. The title song, which opens and closes the show, is memorable. Liz/Beth’s “What the Fuck?” makes a statement everyone can relate to and Josh’s beautiful, heartfelt, “Hey Kid” is simple and gorgeous. Larry Keigwin’s choreography is contemporary-looking, sharp and angular, while Michael Greif’s direction is sensitive, focused and moving.
In the leading role, Jackie Burns makes audiences forget that it was the stunning Idina Menzel who created this role on Broadway. Ms. Burns is, indeed, magnificent. She’s tall, beautiful and possesses a clear belt that carries easily to the top balcony. She creates a character that’s layered and honest, a young woman faced with choices and decisions, each of which change and affect, not only herself, but everyone in her life. In this way she’s like all of us.
Handsome Matthew Hydzik plays Josh with a gentle ease, a profound kindness and sincerity that makes his character likable and earnest. Audiences will wish they could spend some real time with this man. Mr. Hydzik’s performance is without push or pretense and we cheer for his successes and weep for his pain.
As Lucas, Anthony Rapp recreates his deep, moving Broadway performance for this National Tour. He shows us a young, gay man who cares deeply for his friend, Beth, while finding his love and life with David (played with sweet sincerity by Marc Delacruz). Tamyra Gray brings grit, sass and humor to the role of Kate and Janine DiVita makes Anne, Kate’s life partner, a lovable and feisty force of nature.
The opportunity to revisit a turning point in one’s life would be a true blessing. To have that opportunity, to walk down a road that, when first encountered, wasn’t traveled would indeed be eye opening. Hindsight is true and clear; the chance to go back and make one’s life better, to make wiser choices, is a wish for all. In this musical, a young woman is given the chance to reevaluate her the choices she’s made in her life. In the end Elizabeth finds herself “Always Starting Over.”
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented February 23-March 6 by Broadway in Chicago at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago.
Tickets are available at all Broadway in Chicago box offices, all Ticketmaster locations, by calling the BIC Ticket Line at 800-775-2000 or by going to www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
Additional information about this and other fine area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com