Thought provoking Broadway musical “If/Then” comes to Orpheum Theatre

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Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust

Our entire lives are made up of a series of choices, and Broadway musical "If/Then" explores how one choice could lead one woman's life in two separate directions.

I walked into the Orpheum theatre on the opening night of Broadway musical “If/Then” expecting a simple love story with an Idina Menzel look-alike struggling to fill the diva’s shoes who originated the role. I left the theater having seen, not one, but two love stories with an Idina Menzel look-alike, and thinking deep philosophical thoughts about the choices we make in our lives.

Menzel’s doppelganger, Jackie Burns, made her mark on the role of Elizabeth, a woman who returns to New York with the dream we all share deep in our hearts: becoming urban planners. Elizabeth goes to a park one day to meet up with an old friend, and is faced with two choices. “If/Then” follows the different paths that Elizabeth could’ve taken from that moment, and how that one choice affected her entire life.

Burns’ performance as Elizabeth was not only witty and relatable, but also had depth and evoked empathy from the audience. On opening night, Burns was supported by the understudy for the role of Kate (Charissa Bertels), one of Elizabeth’s best friends who encourages her to pursue not only her dreams, but love. Although playing a role meant for an African American actress, Bertels depicted the lesbian kindergarten teacher as an energetic and wacky friend we all hope to have going into adulthood.

The choreography also contributed to the overall message of the musical, for the dance numbers had more 90 degree turns than my math homework.”

— Leo Driessen

The women in “If/Then,” especially Burns and Bertels, were powerhouse singers and vocally much stronger than the males with the exception of Anthony Rapp. Having starred in the original cast of “Rent” on Broadway and in the movie as well, Rapp has proven his talent time and time again while still maintaining a humble and all around friendly presence on the stage. Rapp doesn’t let his track record inflate his ego, and get in the way of delivering a raw performance.

The set and the choreography were very both very simplistic and helped contribute to the overarching theme of choices and serendipity. Projected on the backdrop were various New York landmarks with maps layered onto them. Often there was a line travelling through these maps like on a GPS, and the effect this had was rather distracting at times when important plot moments were taking place, because it felt like Siri was giving directions to the nearest Panda Express.

The two storylines of Elizabeth’s life were differentiated with and the lights, blue representing one storyline and orange representing the other. As aforementioned, the choreography also contributed to the overall message of the musical, for the dance numbers had more 90 degree turns than my math homework. It all felt a bit predictable: people walking, crossing paths, intersecting, or narrowly missing.

With a myriad of talent, extraordinary storytelling, and a philosophical yet accessible message, “If/Then” is truly the full package. I advise you, dear reader, to go see “If/Then” and not just let it be a what-if and deeply regret it for the rest of your life.