From lyricist BRIAN YORKEY and composer TOM KITT comes If/Then, their latest Broadway baby.Since meeting about two decades ago while working on Columbia University’s The Varsity Show, playwright Brian Yorkey and composer Tom Kitt have been a heavy-hitting theatrical duo, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal being one of their best-known collaborations. Now, they’ve combined their talents to create the anticipated If/Then, a Broadway production about a 39-year-old woman looking for a fresh start in New York.
“We thought about how important we’ve been to each other’s lives,” 43-year-old Yorkey says. So, about five years ago, the pair decided to write this musical “about the choices we make and the chance that comes along in our life, and how to live with the fact that every moment our life is taking a turn in one direction or another.”
If/Then, which just made its Broadway debut at New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre, focuses on Elizabeth, an urban planner in the Big Apple whose decisions propel her into two alternate realities. In one storyline, she falls in love and has a family; in the other, she concentrates on her career.
Like Next to Normal, the show is “a roller coaster emotional experience,” Yorkey says. “We’re really interested in writing about real people and their joys and sorrows.” One major influence, he says, was Stephen Sondheim’s Company, which “captured a group of people in New York City at a very specific point in time.”
If/Then reunites Rapp and Menzel, friends since their stints in the pioneering and enduring rock musical Rent. In the new show, Rapp plays Lucas, who has been friends — and sometimes more — with Elizabeth since college.
The musical explores the perennial question of how women can balance professional aspirations with romance and family. “But I don’t think it’s just about women,” Yorkey says. “It’s interesting to know that Tom has a wife and a family, and I’m still single.” That may be “because the amount of work that I do, and the attention I pay to it, hasn’t left the kind of room in my life for a more involved personal life,” he adds. “Or maybe that’s an excuse.”