The national tour of If/Then, the original musical that reunited composer Tom Kitt, book writer/lyricist Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif, the creative team behind the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical Next to Normal, ends its year-long, cross-country journey August 14 at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre.
The show launched with original Broadway stars Idina Menzel, Anthony Rapp, LaChanze and James Snyder last summer, with Rapp staying on as new stars Jackie Burns, Tamyra Gray and Matthew Hydzik stepped into the musical’s principal roles.
Playbill.com caught up with Burns, who also stood by for Menzel in the Broadway production of If/Then, and Rapp, who reflected on their time with the show and what the future holds for each of them.
What’s it like to take If/Then on the road and make the role of Liz/Beth your own after standing by for Idina on Broadway?
Jackie Burns: Getting to re-rehearse the show was really amazing, and to get to find my own Elizabeth was amazing. Watching new cast members discover things was huge because I was able to discover new things with them.
It feels really good to be on the road. But it’s interesting. With Wicked, people were coming to see Wicked, not to see a certain witch. But on Broadway with If/Then, people were coming to see Idina Menzel in this role that was written for her. It was nerve-racking. It was like having a birthday party and nobody showing up, is how it felt. It was hard because I could feel that I had to win the audience over. And usually by the time I sang “What the Fuck,” I had them on my side, I could feel the shift.
How much does playing a part like this take its toll on you emotionally?
JB: It’s exhausting and I’ve had to learn how to leave it when I’m done. You can have an emotional hangover. The five-show weekends are hard. I have headaches every night after two-show days. I always take a really long shower to just have a moment and decompress and finish feeling whatever I need to feel and then let it go. But this is also the most amazing role I’ve ever played. You get to feel every thing you can possibly feel as an actor.
What’s next for you?
JB: I really want to originate something of my own. It’s hard to audition when you’re on the road. I also have a bunch of concerts coming up.
What has the experience of taking If/Then on the road been like for you? What will you miss?
Anthony Rapp: It’s wonderful to be a part of a piece that resonates with real life. So when things have happened offstage in my personal life, the show has always been a place to work through stuff. I’m grateful for that. It’s a touchstone kind of show for me. It feels like a second skin. Lucas certainly does, and the piece itself works inside of themes and issues that are near and dear to my heart and that I really believe in. I’m going to miss all of that.
You’ve also had the chance to perform with Jackie Burns as Liz/Beth.
AR: I got to do it with Jackie several times in New York. I’ve always enjoyed working with her, but it’s been great to do a consistent run with her. She’s a wonderful actress, and it’s been lovely to get to build our own version of this together.
What’s next for you?
AR: I’m doing a bunch of concerts with Adam Pascal, including two weeks at Feinstein’s/54 Below. I love doing it because it’s a little looser than doing the eight-show-a-week grind and there’s more of a direct contact with the audience, which I’m really looking forward to.