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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Broadway Beaverhausen: If/Then Not/Good

When you leave a Broadway musical, you should be humming the tunes, not bemoaning your time and money spent. When you leave a musical that makes you feel depressed and angry, something is terribly amiss. We left If/Then, giving up Broadway shows for Lent! The show began previews March 5th and now marches forth to its official opening on March 27th.

If/Then stars Broadway diva Idina Menzel. Or, as John Travolta likes to refer to her, Adele Dazeem. The show is, refreshingly, an original musical rather than a revival or jukebox musical. It reunites Ms Mendel with her Rent co-star Anthony Rapp. At times a rock/tribal musical, at times pop MOR, it's a total mess.

I know the show's in previews but, my God, I've never witnessed so many flubs in a single production! A backstage voice shouting out an actor's forgotten line over a microphone? (Don't they have ear pieces for that these days?) Stagehands still setting up props as a scene begins? Idina, walking into her apartment on-stage with Rapp, broke the fourth wall, exclaiming "Why are these men in my apartment?" The men didn't leave. They fumbled, trying to get a floor lamp prop to stand up. "Go, I'll take care of it," Menzel flippantly ad-libbed in full diva attitude. But, unfortunately, after her awkward dismissal, she was unable to solve the problem. The stagehands returned, removed the offending lamp, and the stars took the scene once again from the top. Finally. Never have I seen this sort of amateurism on Broadway!

The book is a disaster, its conceit poorly executed. Choreography is routine for the most part. Staging is clumsy. Hoping to be the new Rent, the musical is more like tv's Friends in its unrealistic representation of New York City life. The book by Brian Yorkey (who also wrote the lyrics) tragically presents us with one-dimensional and not completely believable characters, sitcom-like dialogue and clumsy expositions.

Michael Griff's direction is clumsy at best. The music by Tom Kitt is largely forgettable with few highlights. The cream of the show tune crop is the stirring tribal-rock number (nicely staged on a subway set), "It's a Sign," sung by LaChanze, who pretty much steals the show. The set design and changes are badly executed. And the storyline is a pointless, painful bore. Otherwise, I guess I loved it.

I knew there was a problem when my eyes left the stage during a production number to admire the theater's chandeliers.

As for Adele Dazeem, she merely needs to step out at the opening of Act I to receive thunderous applause. However, as the show cast its drowsy spell, audience enthusiasm thinned out. This is not Rent, this is not Wicked. This is a disaster despite a preview audience packing the house, largely because of the show's star. If there's no major overhauling before opening night (unlikely), Buddy B predicts there's no then.

To cap off my evening of contemptible all-singing/all-dancing, I shared a cab home with a friend. I saw our taxi going into the Holland Tunnel lane. "You know I'm headed to Brooklyn, not New Jersey," I asserted. Said my cabbie: "Yeah, I know! What are you? A fucking comedian?"

"Wait until you get my tip," I thought. "I get funnier." If/Then.

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