Brown Paper Box Co. IF/THEN: A NEW MUSICAL Review – Restarting Your Life

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Choices, choices, choices…Each one we make sends us off down a path. We’re never really sure if it’s the right choice to make, or what will happen because of that decision. One woman decides to start her life over in IF/THEN, and we see how one small decision can lead to completely different paths.

Brown Paper Box IF/THEN

Brown Paper Box Co. Brings Us To the Streets of New York

Originally made famous by Idina Menzel, our main lead, Elizabeth, has left her marriage in Phoenix to move back to New York City. She put her life on hold for twelve years and now is ready to jump into what she loves and was born to do - city planning. In our opening scene, she’s meeting her friends in the park - her old college buddy, Lucas, and her new across the hall neighbor, Kate. This moment becomes the pivotal new beginning for Elizabeth.

Will she decide to join Lucas at his activist group’s protest as dependable Beth?

 Or, will she decide to stay in the park with Kate, as the new Liz who listens to sexy guitar guy in the park?

Luckily, we don’t have to choose just one; we get to see both outcomes. We see what happens in both timelines as Elizabeth chooses to be either Beth or Liz, after this fateful moment in the park.

From Broadway to Black Box

Full disclosure: this writer had seen the original productions of IF/THEN from its previews in DC, to its full Broadway run. After seeing these full scale productions, it could be hard to imagine the show in a small, scaled down production.

However, in this writer’s opinion, Brown Paper Box Co. has done this with success because in a smaller space, our focus is drawn to the story and the emotions.

Sitting in the third floor theatre at The Athenaeum, we look into a simple stage set up with brick walls scaled with ivy. The orchestra pit is tucked away in the corner towards the back. With the small stage, minimal lighting and sets, we can better focus on the story and these characters’ lives. It feels like we become closer to them, like we’re right there experiencing the ups and downs of these people’s relationships.

Seeing the Connections

This setting allows not only the story to carry more intimately, but creates more intimate connections between our characters, in this writer’s view.  We feel that they sing their hearts out to us.

Bridget Adams-King as Kate sits right down in front of us like we’re her kindergarten class and belts out No More Wasted Time praising Beth’s determination to start again. We feel the love Josh, played by Michael Peters, has for his unborn child in Hey Kid as he expresses his determination to be the best dad. And, Amanda Giles as Elizabeth leads the show as she shows how both Beth and Liz grow from this woman trying to find her footing to one who is confident in her life. As she sings we feel everything from her joy, to her love, to her heartbreak all up close and personal.

Brown Paper Box Co.’s production of IF/THEN creates a new level of intimacy with the story. If you’re into big, Broadway-scale musical productions with lots of sets, lights, and huge dance numbers, this production might not be for you. If you’re already a fan of IF/THEN and looking for a new take, this would be a good fit for you. More, it would likely be a good fit for any musical lover who likes to explore the possibilities of what if?

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Watch this video showing the TOP PICK PLAYS of 2019

Click here to read more Picture This Post Brown Paper Box stories.

Cast:

Amanda Giles (Elizabeth), Bridget Adams-King (Kate), Alanna Chavez (Anne, u/s Elizabeth), Darian J. Duah (Ensemble, u/s Stephen), Matthew Fayfer (Stephen), Parker Guidry (Lucas), Michael Idalski (David, u/s Josh), Will Kazda (Ensemble, u/s David), Micah Kronlokken (Swing), Jennifer Ledesma (Elena), Grace McDonell (Ensemble, u/s Anne, Elena, Kate), and Michael Peters (Josh)

Production Team:

Elyse Dolan (Director), Rachel Hoovler (Music Director), Eric Backus (Co-Sound Designer), Arran Bowen (Assistant Production Manager & Properties Designer), Katie Capp (Choreographer), Liz Cooper (Lighting Designer), Zach Dries (Photographer), Kaitlyn Guerrieri (Front of House Manager), Jeremy Hollis (Scenic Designer & Production Manager), Abigail Lafont (Intimacy Designer), Jennifer Ledesma (Ass’t Choreographer & Dance Captain), Averi Paulsen (Co-Sound Designer), Charlie Sheets (Graphic Designer), Si Squires-Kasten (Assistant Director & Stage Manager), Paul Michael Thomson (Casting Associate), and Lily Grace Walls (Costume Designer). Rachel Hoovler (Piano), Alexis Medina (Guitar), Russell Wiley (Bass), and Derek Briones (Drums)

When:

Thru February 16, 2020

Friday, January 31 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, February 1 @ 2PM (matinee) and Saturday, February 1 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, February 2 @ 2PM (matinee)
Monday, February 3 @ 7:30PM
Thursday, February 6 @ 7:30PM
Friday, February 7 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, February 8 @ 2PM (matinee) and Saturday, February 8 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, February 9 @ 2PM (matinee)
Thursday, February 13 @ 7:30PM
Friday, February 14 @ 7:30PM
Saturday, February 15 @ 2PM (matinee) and Saturday, February 15 @ 7:30PM
Sunday, February 16 @ 2PM (matinee)

Where

The Athenaeum,
Studio Three,
2936 N. Southport Ave.
Chicago, IL 60657

Tickets

For full price tickets and ticket availability visit Brown Paper Box website or by calling 773-935-6860

Check for Half-Price Deals from Hot Tix:

Photos by Zach Dries

Note: Picture This Post reviews are excerpted by Theatre in Chicago

Alexis Bugajski Photo: Liz Lin

About the Author

Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.

Editor's Note:  Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski

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