If/Then needs star power to compensate for its shallow story | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

If/Then needs star power to compensate for its shallow story

Brown Paper Box Co. struggles to make sense of its parallel storylines.


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

1 comment

Performing a show specifically written for powerhouse Idina Menzel without Idina Menzel starts you off at a disadvantage. When that musical is also superficial and predictable, it's no surprise that Elyse Dolan's staging of If/Then for Brown Paper Box. Co. could not deliver.

The story follows Elizabeth (Amanda Giles) as she lives different versions of her life. In two parallel plots, If/Then (created by the Next to Normal team of librettist Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt) exercises the tired tale of a woman who goes to the magical land of New York City, embittered by a recent divorce and not sure she can love again.

I left exhausted at everything the show had thrown at me: confusing timelines, out-of-place choreography, millennial bashing, new mothers eager to give up their careers, oversimplified marriages and divorces, romanticized ideas of New York City, and—possibly most heinously—the spotlight on a two-dimensional military man who gets an entire solo number about parenting ("Hey Kid") while his wife goes through pregnancy and childbirth alone.

Giles shined in the rawest moments of the show, but the character of Elizabeth is bland to the core, and the same goes for her love interests. Bridget Adams-King as best friend Kate had charisma to carry the show, but she was plagued with vocal counterparts that shrilly overwhelmed her low, open belting. Parker Guidry was the top player in the production; they were refreshingly genuine and believable as Lucas (who, bonus, is a bisexual man with character depth that actually goes beyond his sexuality).

If/Then tries hard to say something important about fate, destiny, and the way we live our lives, but the shallow storylines and forgettable music undercut these aims.  v

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Showing 1-1 of 1


Add a comment