Music: Tom Kitt
Lyrics: Brian Yorkey
Reviewer: Carrie Carter
The latest offering from the writing team behind Next to Normal, If/Then, featuring an above the title performance from theatre royalty Idina Menzel, is one of this seasons most talked about Broadway openings, and for good reason. The easy to listen to score, almost flawless performances, and plot that is as much a love letter to New York City as it is a story of chance, choice and rebuilding make for one of the most well rounded musical theatre recordings of the year.
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey have developed a reputation for creating rock-pop inspired musical theatre with a meaning, and If/Then is no exception. On first listen, it is lighter than their previous work, and without the immediate sense of gravitas one senses in Next to Normal but this only makes it easier to listen to on various different levels. If/Then can be enjoyed with focus or simply appreciated for the brilliant performances of songs that are guaranteed to be contemporary theatre favourites as soon as this recording is released.
Idina Menzel is on goosebump inducing form; from the first time she appears in ‘What If’, one of the strongest songs on the recording. It is obvious almost immediately that If/Then is somewhat a star vehicle for Menzel, and her absence is felt when she isn’t being featured. This is a true example of a performer whose star status is entirely deserved. It is refreshing to hear her as part of an ensemble, where her distinctive voice both stands out and complements her fellow cast members. The male cast are also on fine form, with star performances from both James Snyder and Anthony Rapp, the latter shining particularly in ‘Some Other Me’, one of the shows stand alone pieces.
This recordings only real downfall, due to the nature of the material, is that it is almost impossible in parts to follow the storyline having never seen the piece. However, the songs stand alone well enough that it becomes easy enough to overlook this and enjoy each as an individual.
It’s encouraging to hear a truly excellent new musical performed to world class standard in the way If/Then is. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey are bringing contemporary theatrical writing to the mainstream in a way that is almost unmatched, and that, along with the undeniable quality of their work, is something that must be celebrated.