If you like Broadway Theater then the TPAC in Nashville is the place to go to experience the best that the Great White Way has to offer as national tours of top productions regularly make a stop here in Music City. That was the case on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 when the critically-acclaimed IF/THEN had its opening night to start a much-anticipated week of shows in the Capitol District.
IF/THEN is an original Broadway musical written by Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics), and directed by Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal. The three-hour with intermission presentation tells the story of Elizabeth (Jackie Burns), known concurrently as Beth or Liz, a divorced thirty-something who relies on obsessively calculating the odds to devise her own flawed formula for discovering true happiness in life.
IF/THEN has been called “intense and thrilling” and “the most compelling new musical in years” by New York Magazine and it was extremely engaging from the get go. The opening number “What If” literally set the stage for the central theme to be revealed – that all of our choices lead to future opportunities and momentous moments gained or lost – for better or worse.
The brilliant and well-educated lead returns to New York City following a decade of failed marriage in Phoenix. She is seeking to pick up where she left off when she chose domestication over destiny to pursue her dreams of making something happen in the metropolis as a city planner. But, she no sooner arrives in the Big Apple when chance intervenes as she meets a returning soldier named Josh (Anthony Rapp) in the park.
From there the first and second acts unfold to reveal two wildly different outcomes for her depending on whether or not she acquiesced to his request for her phone number and a date. Will she choose a path of tragic love and a family over an award-winning and exhilarating career that will change the skyline of Manhattan? Can she, improbably, have both?
“This is a creative story that speaks to how some of the simple choices we make in our lives impact our journeys and experiences. The producers of IF/THEN have done an exceptional job in casting this show, and we’re thrilled our audiences have the chance to see these extraordinary Broadway performers up close right here in Nashville,” says Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer. “I’m proud that TPAC invested in this beautiful and contemporary Broadway production.”
Set in New York this play has it all from same-sex couplings, inter-racial inter-office flings, a fair amount of swearing and a public service announcement regarding the dangers of the food truck fad. There’s plenty of action on the active and colorful set as cast members and dancers constantly shift around the scenery to depict various settings including a ride on the subway to a rooftop celebration in the city.
The show’s 22 songs were expertly enhanced by the TPAC’s orchestra conducted by Kyle C. Norris and served to underscore the innovative and groundbreaking storylines that emerge within IF/THEN. “What the Fuck?” was the most controversial and crowd-pleasing point in the first half as Liz and Beth’s spontaneous sexual liaisons were punctuated by a guilty conscious.
IF/THEN provided ultimate proof that no matter how calculated and arranged one is in their own life most likely outside forces will intervene to scuttle even the best laid plans. After observing the energetic opening night performance at the TPAC in Tennessee we were left with only one conclusion – IF/THEN is a worthy theatrical statement on the human condition and the fickleness of fate.
Over three decades, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center – located in the James K. Polk Cultural Center at 505 Deaderick Street in downtown Nashville – has welcomed more than 11 million audience members and served more than 1.6 million students and educators with performances at TPAC, resources for teachers, classroom residencies, and enrichment programs for adults. Founded in 1980, TPAC serves several hundred thousand audience members each year with the HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC. Upcoming Broadway productions are scheduled to include Evita, Rent and The Book of Mormon.