“I’d lie to say I’m never sometimes always thinking of you”
I couldn’t do New York without taking the opportunity to see Idina Menzel and in lieu of battling the crowds at Times Square, tickets were booked for her starring role in Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s If/Then. Having had the soundtrack for a wee while now, and being a big fan thereof, I pretty much knew what I was letting myself in for, meaning there was none of the apparent confusion that blighted much of the initial critical response which found the show hard to follow.
Is it confusing? I don’t think so. It’s tricksy yes, as a twin set of narratives follow two different paths that newly-divorced Elizabeth could take as she moves to New York City to start her life anew. Pushing 40, she feels the clock ticking both personally and professionally and so as Liz it is the former that takes precedent and as Beth, the latter. The same friends and colleagues appear in each strand too, with different experiences so you do have to pay some attention but that’s no real hardship.
With actors like LaChanze and Jenn Colella, James Snyder and Anthony Rapp, both the worlds that surround Elizabeth are richly portrayed and I particularly loved that in an LGBT-heavy show, it is the L and B that get the spotlight for once, LaChanze particularly stood out for me as Kate, the lesbian schoolteacher who develops beautifully in both strands. And my personal favourite song, ‘Here I Go’, matched all my expectations with the impossibly handsome Snyder duetting gorgeously with Menzel.
And for a performer who finds herself the object of such opprobium (and often from people who should know far better), Menzel nails the elusive star quality not once but twice to ensure that we’re fully invested in both iterations of the story. She hit more than 75% of the notes…but more than that, she fills the stage with just as much humanity as she does volume – it’s a spine-tingling pleasure to listen to her, especially in that final section of ‘Always Starting Over’, and I’m so pleased I finally got to see her live.