If/Then Explores The Intersection Of Chance And Choice At The Boston Opera House

Posted July 13, 2016 by Brian Keaney in Theater & Arts
Company of the touring production of If/Then. Photo by Joan Marcus

Boston’s vibrant theater scene has gotten a little more exciting with the premiere of If / Then, a new contemporary musical playing at the Boston Opera House through July 17th. Starring Jackie Burns as the 40-year-old Elizabeth Vaughan, the production follows two simultaneous but distinct story lines in Elizabeth’s life after she moves back to New York seeking a fresh start following a divorce.

If / Then, which is directed by Michael Griff, explores the possibilities that could await Elizabeth, a city planner, when fate intervenes and alters the plans she has carefully laid out for herself.  How much of Elizabeth’s life is directed by choice, and how much is dictated by the fickle whims of chance?

In the opening scene, Elizabeth runs into two old friends in Madison Square Park.  Each gives her different advice, symbolized by the new names they suggest for her. Kate recommends that she reinvent herself as “Liz,” and go out seeking new experiences.  Lucas suggests a return to the name “Beth,” her college nickname, and more professional networking in New York.  The storylines diverge from there, with “Beth” walking off with Lucas, while “Liz” goes with Kate.

If/Then explores some mature themes and has strong language, so this one isn’t for the kids. However, adults will no doubt enjoy the deeply moving story that the New York Post called a “fascinating, ambitious, and original new musical.” Along the way the entire audience will no doubt question not only their own lives and choices, including the choices they could have made along the way.

The production features music by Tom Kitt, and lyrics penned by Brian Yorkey. Together the pair have won both a Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize for their work on Next to Normal. They do not disappoint in this most recent effort, which is decidedly more upbeat and which earned a Tony nomination for Best Original Score. Indeed, the cast recording debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200, the highest ranking for a Broadway cast recording since 1996’s blockbuster, Rent.

During its original run, actor James Snyder hosted a video blog entitled Hey Kid that showed what took place backstage during the production. Originally scheduled for 8 episodes, it was extended to 24 episodes over three seasons, making it the longest running video blog on Broadway.com ever.

This is Burns’ third credit on Broadway, having already appeared in Wicked, and Hair, as well as in several shows that were produced off Broadway. She additionally has made several appearances on television and in film. Also playing parts in the two potential paths of Elizabeth’s life are  Matthew Hydzik as Josh, Anthony Rapp as Lucas, and Tamyra Gray as Kate. Tickets are on sale now, with shows running Tuesday to Thursday at either 7:00 or 7:30, Fridays at 8:00, and two shows on Saturday and Sunday, a matinee and a main stage production in the evening. The show arrived in the Hub as part of the Broadway in Boston series.