When I read the premise of Idina Menzel’s new musical If/Then (currently in previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre), it sounded exactly like the Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle Sliding Doors (1998).
In Doors, Paltrow loses her job at a swanky London PR firm and rushes to catch the tube back to her apartment. The movie shows — in two parallel realities — how her future love life and career are changed depending on if she does (or doesn’t) catch the subway.
I saw the matinee of If/Then today, and it didn’t change my mind. While the choice that sends Menzel’s character on two potential paths takes place in Central Park, the two stories share more plot similarities than even I expected.
But I think If/Then could learn a thing or two from its movie doppelganger.
For one, the musical doesn’t focus on one character’s life in two parallel realities. Instead, it attempts to explore how Menzel’s friends, played by LaChaze and Anthony Rapp, also make their own unique choices. (Now, I did love seeing Rapp back on Broadway, and his character is a bit of a Rent callback in many ways.)
But going back and forth between three story lines in two realities — and giving each character closure in both of those realities — takes time. Too much time.
Doors got ‘er dun in 99 minutes. If/Then took over an hour more.
Today’s Playbill didn’t list the musical numbers; I’m sure that’s because the show is in previews, and some cuts may be made before the March 30th opening. I highly recommend it. While many numbers were amazingly heartfelt — a couple with language blissfully blue — others felt simplistic, like a rhyming dictionary set to a bouncy beat with awkward American Idiot-like choreography.
All that being said, the cast is wonderful, their voices worthy of Menzel. By opening night, I hope the show is worthy of her.