By Barry Reszel
Proving a truth with facts, rules and definitions is “deductive reasoning.” Hypotheses are followed by conclusions and commonly referred to as “If-Then” or “Conditional” statements.
For example, if one works hard, then he/she will get a pay raise. The “if” part, working hard, is the hypothesis with the “then” part, getting a pay raise, being the conclusion.
This basis of geometry proofs is written as p→q and reads, “if p, then q.” It is up to the mathematician to “prove,” “disprove” or deem the statement “undecidable”—one that is neither provable nor disprovable.
In this era of focus on STEM—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—education (because, after all, everyone knows that’s what leads to all the “good” jobs), it seems apropos to use Broadway in Chicago’s wonderful production of the modern musical hit If/Then as an example of deductive reasoning to help guide patrons’ entertainment decision-making.
“If” this If/Then is a worthy post-Broadway, national touring company deserving of patrons’ entertainment dollars, “then” it must have cleaned up at the Tony Awards when it was eligible.
Disprove. If/Then got hosed at the 2014 Tonys, earning but two nominations and no awards. However, the show did cash in at the Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards, including taking the awards for Favorite New Musical and Favorite Lead Actress in a Musical (Idina Menzel). But no one should let awards alone guide their ticket buying decisions. Ten years earlier, Wicked won but two Tonys—one for Best Costume Design and one for Best Actress in a Musical (the same person nominated a decade later for If/Then). Who wants to see that show?
But “if” Idina’s not in the cast any more, “then” the touring version must not be as good.
Disprove. Stunning Jackie Burns, who plays the lead character, Elizabeth, is every bit Menzel’s equal; some might say even better because of her well-trained, effortless vocal ability. She was last in Chicago as Wicked‘s Elphaba. Plus she’s a terrific actress and played the role on Broadway as Menzel’s understudy and standby. A corollary: she’s a lovely person who treats her fans well and deserves every night of applause she receives.
“If” the show is centered on one star player, “then” the rest of the cast must have equal talent.
Prove. Broadway and film star Anthony Rapp (RENT, Adventures in Babysitting, A Beautiful Mind) portrays Liz/Beth’s friend Lucas. He’s joined by Broadway veteran (Sideshow, West Side Story, Grease) Matthew Hydzik as Liz’s husband Josh. In addition, Elizabeth’s best gal pal, Kate, is marvelously played by American Idol and Broadway sensation Tamyra Gray. The rest of the ensemble is top-notch, too.
“If” If/Then is a story of one person living two distinctly different lives simultaneously, based on differing decisions made one fateful day, “then” it must be hard to follow.
Disprove. It’s actually quite easy. It often helps to know the plotline before going into a show, and details on the concurrent life stories of Liz and Beth, along with a history of the production may be read here.
“If” this is is a terrific musical, “then” its songbook is noteworthy, too.
Prove. With music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, the same duo that penned the score and lyrics for Next to Normal, the If/Then music is fun, modern, soulful and varied. “Here I Go,” “What the Fuck,” “No More Wasted Time,” “Hey Kid” and “You Learn to Live Without” is one person’s list of favorites. Every patron can compile his or her own.
“If” there’s a song called “What the Fuck,” “then” this show isn’t appropriate for all ages.
Undecidable. This is no Book of Mormon, deserving of an R-rating by the Academy. It’s a real, modern urban story (two stories, actually) with less profanity than the average high school hallway at passing period. And it might just be worth the price of admission to hear Burns sing the f-bomb, because she does it in almost a whispered belt, which is ingenious and hysterical.
So “if” If/Then is really all that and a bag of chips, “then” patrons should be convinced to see the show based on deductive reasoning.
Disprove. Thankfully. The enjoyment of art is gloriously subjective. There is no right or wrong; every reviewer’s and every patron’s opinion is no more or less than that. And it’s why the growing outcry to add an artistic element to STEM-focused education is gaining STEAM. (Read more about that here).
That said, this reviewer highly recommends taking in this exciting modern masterpiece with the folksy tenderness of Once, a touch of Brigadoon‘s mysticism, the tender realness of Next to Normal and a brilliant songbook all its own.
Broadway in Chicago presents “If/Then” through March 6 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, Chicago. More information and tickets ($25 – $98) are available by calling (800) 775-2000 or online here.