Theatre Review: If/Then • Glam Adelaide

Theatre Review: If/Then

Set in present-day New York, this show considers the questions that 38-year-old Elizabeth, a professional town planner,  has about her life and its future possibilities as she moves to New York City to start afresh. She’s looking for true love and a perfect job. The book of the musical extrapolates her “what if” thoughts by allowing her to follow two different pathways into her future, contingent on her choices.

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Presented by Segue Productions
Reviewed 14th September, 2018

Set in present-day New York, this show considers the questions that 38-year-old Elizabeth, a professional town planner,  has about her life and its future possibilities as she moves to New York City to start afresh. She’s looking for true love and a perfect job. The book of the musical extrapolates her “what if” thoughts by allowing her to follow two different pathways into her future, contingent on her choices. Kristin Stefanoff, who plays Elizabeth, has the unenviable task of differentiating between these two future characters. How on earth do we keep track?  The script gives one of her future selves the name of “Liz”, and the other the name of “Beth”. Thankfully, Kristin wears glasses for one character. It helps a bit. Stefanoff has the lion’s share of the work in this show, and gives consistent focus and energy throughout. Her singing voice has a lovely quality, and her acting shows care, sensitivity and intelligence. More thoughtful direction would have given her further to go.

Although the writing threatens to make this a one-woman vehicle, the rest of the principals varied from very good to excellent. Anthony Vawser plays Lucas, the idealistic housing activist. He looks remarkably like Anthony Rapp (Lucas in the original Broadway show), and does a fine job of this pivotal role, bringing clear, believable characterisation to his role. Kelsey McCormack, as Kate and Alicia Hage as Anne, her love interest, are both strong, reliable and focussed performers.  The vocal blend in their duet, Love While You Can”, is splendid.  Gus Robson, although playing a minor principal (David), brings beautiful vocal quality and a graceful presence to everything he does. Josh, trauma doctor and likely love interest for the conflicted Elizabeth, is performed by Michael Butler, who is in excellent voice.   He shows fine command of the vocal and acting range demanded by his role, and provides welcome stability. Matt Redmond makes a plausible Stephen, the city office planning boss. He looks good and sounds good too, except in his rather frail higher sung range.

All these hard-working principals do the very best they can to breathe life into this lumbering vehicle. It’s not their fault that it never takes off. The combination of a convoluted plot, an over-written book and pallid music prove too much for even the most skilled and dedicated. I saw the Broadway production of this show, and even with Idina Menzel in the lead role and a stage full of superb music theatre performers, the show was a dog.

Parked behind a scrim at the back of the stage, the eight-piece band, led by Musical Director Ben Stefanoff, is tight and competent. Their sound is neatly balanced; their playing is always at the service of the performers. However, there are vocal sound issues which needed to be rectified on the sound desk.  Because all the cast are head-miced, each mic needs to be brought online just before that performer speaks or sings.  Sometimes their sound amplification kicks in well after they have arrived on stage; it is dispiriting for the actors, and makes a complex plot just that little bit more difficult to follow.  In addition, the ensemble voices are often mixed too much to the front in comparison to some of the principals.  This leads to more muddy sound and less comprehension in a piece that is already a bit tricky to follow. On top of all this, the ensemble singing sounds under-rehearsed; it is too frequently ragged and hesitant.

The set design, credited to Ben Stefanoff and Vanessa Redmond, is particularly good. It makes canny use of the limited space available in the theatre, by utilising the side stages, and a portion of the auditorium too, enabling the ensemble to spill out onto the floor of the theatre. The lighting, designed by Luke Bartholomew, helps make the set work well in the space.

There is more choreography than is needed.  It slows down an already sluggish plotline, and bears little relevance to the story.  Despite some fine dancers within its ranks, the majority of the ensemble moves haphazardly. A good example of gratuitous choreography is the two young dancers who do interpretative movement on stage left while Stefanoff and Vawser sing Some Other Me, just in case we didn’t get the (clearly and beautifully sung) lyrics.

Reviewed by Pat H. Wilson

Venue: Star Theatres, Theatre One, Hilton
Season: 14th – 22nd September, 2018
Tickets:  Full Price: $34  Concession: $29
Bookings: www.segueproductionssa.com/tickets or at https://www.trybooking.com/WIFT

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