'If/Then': Choosing Between Two Roads Diverged

Idina Menzel in the Denver-bound Broadway musical 'If/Then.' Photo by Joan Marcus.
Idina Menzel in the Denver-bound Broadway musical ‘If/Then’: This show “is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team.” Photo by Joan Marcus.

Broadway superstar Idina Menzel chose to star in the national tour of If/Then in Denver and perform in the first six cities that follow. Castmates LaChanzeAnthony Rapp and James Snyder then signed on as well.

If/Then is a contemporary new musical that explores how vastly changed one woman’s life might have turned out if fate and her own choices had been different. We all make decisions every day that have the potential to impact not only the course of our lives, but of those closest to us.

Case in point was Menzel’s consequential decision: “If Idina didn’t choose to launch the tour, then it wouldn’t be touring,” producer David Stone said flatly. “It’s as simple as that.”

But because she did, If/Then is now believed to be the first musical of the modern Broadway era to be launching a national tour with all of its major principal cast reassembled.

And Menzel wouldn’t want it any other way.

If/Then quote“What’s so exciting about this for me is that it is completely brand-new material,” Menzel said. “But the best thing about If/Then is the people who are involved with this project. I’m smart enough to know to work with smart people.”

Some of those smart people include Director Michael Greif, who discovered Menzel when he cast her as wild-child Maureen in the landmark 1996 production of Rent; Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), whose Next to Normal in 2010 became the first musical to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama since…well, Rent; and her Wicked producer, David Stone, who also produced Next to Normal.

“To me, it’s absolutely essential that we have Idina and LaChanze and Anthony and James heading out for the first leg of the tour,” Yorkey said, “because they are paving the way for the people who will follow. And they are showing the world once again that they believe in this kind of quirky, not-entirely-traditional new show of ours. To me, that means everything.”

Next to Normal was significantly boosted when Broadway star Alice Ripley chose to go out on the road with the show, Stone said. But it’s incredibly rare. And even less likely with Menzel, given the rocket ship her career has been on since she sang the ubiquitous anthem “Let it Go” for the hugely popular animated film, Frozen.

“The fact that Idina is now doing this tour and bringing this story to Denver and beyond when she has a million things pulling her in all different directions…” Kitt said. “It just means a great deal.”

She’s doing it because there is no understating how important If/Then has become to Menzel, who has remained fiercely committed to the show from the very beginning.

If/Then is especially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family,” Menzel said.

If/Then follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in a city of infinite possibilities. But when her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, her life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as they intersect at the meeting of choice and chance.

Many women can relate, Menzel said. Starting with Menzel, who started over herself last year as a single mother in her 40s. “Shows come into your life when you need to learn something about your life that they have to teach you,” she said. “If/Then put its arms around me and taught me about choices. It has taught me that you have the opportunity and the power to wake up and start your life over every single day.”

But If/Then wasn’t always Menzel’s story. In the writers’ inaugural treatment, Kitt and Yorkey imagined their protagonist to be a 25-year-old woman from Denver who moves to the Big City. The story would explore all the different paths her life might take.

It was Stone who suggested, “Well, wouldn’t it be more interesting if she were older and coming back to New York with some baggage?” he said. The writers loved the idea — and so did Menzel. Suddenly Kitt and Yorkey found themselves writing If/Then for a singular performer “who ultimately will be recognized as one of the legendary instruments of the American musical theatre,” Yorkey said. “So you better make it worth her while if you are writing songs for her.”

No pressure.

“To be able to write for someone like Idina is a privilege and a thrill and also a challenge,” Yorkey said. “As a songwriter, it’s like being a race-car driver and getting to take the most brilliant Porsche out on the track: You better well know how to drive it.”

Kitt says that Porsche of a voice has a range so huge, “She can really go anywhere. She sings as high as the highest people can go. And then she has a wonderful richness to her low notes as well. There is just nothing that she can’t do.”

Including, apparently, taking her Porsche out for a few months on the open road.

“I’m so thrilled to launch the show’s national tour and to send it off across the country and around the world,” Menzel said. “I am very much looking forward to sharing this original musical with Broadway fans who weren’t able to travel to New York and see it there.”

If/Then production photos by Joan Marcus:

If/Then: Ticket information
Oct. 13-25
At the Buell Theatre
Call 303-893-4100, buy in person at the Denver Center Ticket Office located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby, or BUY ONLINE
ASL interpreted, Audio described & Open captioned performance: 2 p.m. Oct 25,
Groups: Call 303-446-4829

(Please be advised that the DCPA’s web site at denvercenter.org is the ONLY authorized online ticket provider for ‘If/Then’ performances in Denver)

Our previous NewsCenter coverage of If/Then and Idina Menzel:

Look for additional coverage of If/Then, including our expanded interviews with Idina Menzel, LaChanze, David Stone, Brian Yorkey, Tom Kitt and other members of the cast and crew, at denvercenter.org/news-center

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