“If/Then” Concludes Its Run

Idina Menzel Led this Musical for One Year

Idina Menzel in if/then on BroadwayOn March 22, 2015, If/Then concluded its run on Broadway at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Starring Idina Menzel as a woman named Elizabeth, the musical had been running since its first preview on March 5, 2014. It officially opened on March 30, 2014, and closes having played 401 performances on top of 29 preview performances. The major draw for this musical with book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt (co-writers of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical Next to Normal) was the star, Idina Menzel. It was therefore fortunate that Menzel stayed for the whole run. Menzel is very well known among Broadway diehards for her star turns as Maureen in Rent, Elphaba in Wicked, and more recently the Ice Queen in the Disney animated film Frozen. For the latter, she sang the Academy Award winning song “Let It Go,” and when she performed the song live at the awards ceremony, John Travolta memorably flubbed the pronunciation of her name, calling her “Adele Dazeem.” More than an embarrassment, this was actually beneficial for her career, enhancing her renown beyond the community of Broadway fans. It is therefore possible that this occurrence augmented interest in the musical she was starring in at the time, If/Then.

Mixed Reviews and Mixed Box Officeif/then

After the show opened in March 2014, it received mixed reviews. To make matters worse, the Tony committee failed to recognize the musical in a significant capacity, snubbing it for the nomination for Best Musical. Therefore, although the show received some early buzz and great box office weeks early on, it is understood that the show closes having failed to recoup its initial investment. The show was capitalized at $10 million, which is a mid level amount for a musical of this size. The initial box office was looking promising, partly due to the timing of the Oscar name flub right at the beginning of the run. From the first week through the week ending May 11, 2014, the musical made over $1 million in its weekly box office a total of 5 times, and the addition 5 weeks had a weekly gross in the $900,000 range. However, starting mid-May, the musical began to bring in weekly grosses in the $800,000 range, by July it was averaging $700,000, and ever since August 2014, the show has been fluctuating in weekly grosses between $500,000 and $600,000. In early November 2014, the show brought in its record low weekly gross of $404,308. Therefore, it was difficult for the musical to keep up the audience interest, especially after the mixed reviews and the Tony nomination snub.

Nevertheless, Reuniting Great Artists for a Fulfilling Experience

The creative team of If/Then was a reunion of many great shows from the past. First of all, Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt are the musical writing duo who won a Pulitzer Prize for Next to Normal, which also won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Lead Performance in a Musical. In addition, If/Then was produced by David Stone, and directed by Michael Greif, both of whom served those same roles on Next to Normal. On top of this, David Stone is also the wickedly successful producer of Wicked, which brought Idina Menzel great fame and acclaim. Furthermore, Michael Greif was the director of Rent, which was Menzel’s first big breakout role. Therefore, though If/Then may not have been financially successful, it was a reunion of great artists who had a very fulfilling experience playing a show for a year with great love and devotion.

If/Then Begins Previews, With Idina Menzel, But Not With Adele Dazeem

Idina Menzel in if/then on BroadwayIdina Menzel has returned to the Broadway stage for the first time in almost 10 years.  If/Then, a new musical by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning team behind Next to Normal) began previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.  The musical is directed by Michael Greif, who first cast Idina in the role that became her big break – Maureen in Rent – and it is produced by David Stone, who mounted the production that earned her a 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical – for playing Elphaba in Wicked.  In If/Then, she plays a woman named Elizabeth on the verge of turning 40 who, after a divorce, decides to move to New York City to make a fresh start.  The official opening will be on Sunday, March 30, 2014.

If/Then is the only new musical this spring season that is not based on pre-existing source material.  With the marketplace competition dominated by recognizable titles such as Rocky, Aladdin, Bullets Over Broadway, and The Bridges of Madison County, If/Then might have a tough time standing out.

However, national awareness of this show and its star was unintentionally heightened during this past Sunday’s Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars, broadcast, when John Travolta infamously mispronounced Idina Menzel’s name while introducing her performance of the song Let It Go from the Disney animated film Frozen.  Without displaying any sign of recognizing his error, Travolta presented her as “Adele Dazeem.”  Social media has been in an uproar about this flub ever since, and people who had never even heard of Idina Menzel now know that her name is, in fact, Idina Menzel.

Apparently, the producers of If/Then realized the benefits of this tangential publicity, as the show’s official twitter account referred to the Oscars incident by tweeting “You Know Her Name.  Idina Menzel stars in If/Then on Broadway March 5th.”  Furthermore, a less official statement, but one that is still traceable to the production team, made its way across the cybersphere.  In what appeared to be an insert from the Playbill for If/Then, a picture of Idina from the Oscars was accompanied by the text: “At this performance the role of “Elizabeth” will be played by “Adele Dazeem.””  A joke bio then followed which cited her as having played “Moritz” in Nert, followed by “Ephraima” in Wicked-ly, and referred her voice performance in the Disney animated musical Farfignugen.  (Clearly this was a play on “Maureen” in Rent, “Elphaba” in Wicked, and Frozen.)  Though the note has been confirmed not to have truly been inserted into Playbills in the theatre, it fooled many people who thought it was real.  Among others, the image was tweeted by Janet Krupin, an actress in If/Then.  As those inside the theatre’s doors were spreading the prank, it is possible that the producers were the ones behind it, taking advantage of the added exposure from Travolta’s blunder.

taye diggs and idina menzel

In any case, Idina Menzel already has a huge fan base from her vast success in her career thus far, and hopefully the show’s merits will allow it to shine at the box office.  The musical had a pre-Broadway engagement at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. from November 5, 2013 to December 8, 2013, the reviews for which were not wildly positive.  Though critics praised Idina’s performance as well as the score, the storyline was reportedly muddled.  The musical features a “Sliding Doors” – style plot with two “what-if” scenarios played out side-by-side, as Elizabeth becomes both the characters “Liz” and “Beth.”  Audiences found this a bit difficult to follow.  Still, fixing kinks is what out-of-town tryouts are for, and hopefully the creative team has had time to refine the plot structure in the intervening months.

The story is actually not far from Idina’s own experience.  She recently separated from her husband of 10 years and Rent co-star Taye Diggs, and at age 42, she is struggling to be a mother to her four year-old son while revitalizing her Broadway career.  After attempting to develop herself as a singer-songwriter in Los Angeles in the years since Wicked, she is now ready to take on this role which is surprisingly close to her heart.  A naturally raw and vulnerable performer, audiences can expect that her character will pulsate with the truth of her own experience, not to mention the gravity-defying power of her sensational singing voice – no matter what her name is: Idina, Adele, Elizabeth, Liz, or Beth.

Broadway Stars at the 2014 Oscars

Last night, the 86th Annual Academy Awards crossed paths with Broadway in a number of ways.

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For the second year in a row, the event was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron – who, in addition to having produced the recent Broadway revivals of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Promises, Promises, have perfected the Broadway musical to film adaptation concept with such movie hits as Annie (1999), Chicago (2002), The Music Man (2003), and Hairspray (2007).  They also executive produced NBC’s Broadway-themed TV show Smash.  It does make sense that these producers, with their expertise in the cross-section between theatre and film, would be chosen to run the film industry’s most significant stage show.

Last year, they may have taken the concept a little too far, as they made the unprecedented choice to give the 2013 Oscars a theme: music in film.   Though it was arguably appropriate because one of the nominees was Les Misérables, some critics thought they took the idea too far.  This year, they opted for a traditionally theme-less ceremony, and received far less criticism.  Still, purely on their own merits, some of Broadway’s favorite stars made appearances at the 86th Annual Academy Awards.

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Robert “Bobby” Lopez, who made his big break by co-writing the raunchy puppet musical Avenue Q, and furthered his renown by co-writing The Book of Mormon along with South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, made history last night.  At age 39, he became the youngest person ever to receive the honor known as EGOT – which refers to someone who has earned all four of “Emmy,” “Grammy,” “Oscar,” and “Tony” Awards.  Only twelve people have earned this honor throughout all of history, and he is the only person to have won all four within a decade.  At last night’s event, Bobby won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for having co-written Let It Go from Disney’s film Frozen, which in turn won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.  He wrote the song along with his wife, Kristin Anderson Lopez.

The couple’s two young daughters, Kate and Annie, both had voice parts in Frozen.

Idina-Menzel-oscars-2014-2As is tradition at the Oscars, all the nominees for Best Original Song are performed at the ceremony by the artist who did so in the film.  Idina Menzel, who played Queen Elsa in Frozen, therefore had the privilege to sing the song at last night’s event – and she did so beautifully.  However John Travolta, who was chosen to introduce her, clearly was not familiar with one of Broadway’s biggest stars.  In reading off the teleprompter, he accidentally – and yet with a straight face – called her “Adele Dazim.”  Social media went into an uproar at the ridiculous mispronunciation.  Immediately, a twitter account in that name was created. Adele Dazim’s Twitter account gained thousands of followers within a short period of time. The account is now currently suspended.

Idina Menzel, as all Broadway aficionados know, rose to prominence when she premiered the role of “Maureen” in Rent, which she also reprised in the 2005 film adaptation, and she won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance of “Elphaba” in Wicked.  This spring season, she has returned to Broadway to star in a new musical called If/Then, written by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, and directed by Michael Greif, who first cast her in RentIf/Then will begin previews March 3, 2014, and will open at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on March 30, 2014.  Therefore, Idina made the trip to Los Angeles just days before her big Broadway opening.

Musicals were not the only type of Broadway show to feature in last night’s Academy Awards.  In addition, two nominations were granted to August: Osage County, written by Tracy Letts based off of his Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play of the same name.  Those nominations were for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who were nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively.  Jean Doumanian, the producer of such Broadway shows as August: Osage County, The Mountaintop starring Samuel L. Jackson, Death of a Salesman starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nice Work If You Can Get It starring Matthew Broderick, and The Book of Mormon, produced the movie adaptation of August: Osage County along with George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Steve Traxler, and Bob and Harvey Weinstein.  Though the film did not win any Academy Awards, it has had a profitable theatrical run, and succeeded in proving that a play can be great source material for a successful motion picture.