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Theatre / If/Then

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No one knows the way the long road bends...

"Some other me is homeless, some other me is queen
Some other me has seen things that no other me has seen
If I met her I would ask her that one question we both fear
Some other me, how'd we end up here?"

A 2014 Broadway musical by Tom Kitt & Brian Yorkey of Next to Normal fame, starring Idina Menzel. "If/Then" is a look at the life of Elizabeth, who has recently moved back to New York following her divorce to start a new life. At the beginning of the show, Elizabeth is given a seemingly minor choice of which friend to go with; that choice ends up dramatically changing the course of her life. The musical follows two timelines: one where Elizabeth is "Liz" and focuses on romance and family, while in another she is "Beth" and focuses on her career.


Provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: How much impact will small choices make on your life?
    • Liz/Beth's pregnancy and how each Alternate Self handles it.
      • Liz, who keeps the baby and marries Josh, frets about blaming the child for her unfulfilled dreams and fearing that she will resent him. Josh reassures her that even if the resentment happens, she will still love their baby.
      • Beth aborts the baby because she wants to focus on her career. This leads to a relationship ending because Lucas, the father, has wanted kids but never admits it.
    • Josh getting killed despite being a medical doctor in the army and a noncombatant, precisely because insurgents were targeting the military base where he was located.
  • Actor Allusion: Idina Menzel's character singing "some other me is homeless/some other me is queen" — referring to actual other hers in Menzel's characters from RENT (who is homeless) and Frozen (2013)/Enchanted (both of whom are queens, more memorably in Frozen).
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  • Alternate Self: Liz and Beth are the different versions of Elizabeth that develop based on whether she left with Lucas or Kate on that fateful day in the park. Beth is more career focused while Liz pursues a family life. Also discussed in "Some Other Me" when Lucas and Beth ponder the various different people they could be if things went differently in their life.
  • Alternate Timeline: Liz chose to go with Kate to listen to a musician in the park. Beth chose to go with Lucas to attend a protest. The timeline diverges from there. Amusingly enough, the play is filled to the brim with events and choices that would seem to be prime fodder for the creation of more alternate timelines, (such as making far weightier choices than choosing between the advice of Kate and Lucas) although it sticks to the Liz and Beth timelines rather than branching off further or exploring others.
  • Beta Couple: Kate and Anne are the secondary couple in each story; the "Liz" timeline also has Lucas and David, whose debate over starting a family provides some conflict. Each couple has a song about their relationship: David and Lucas have "Best Worst Mistake" and Kate and Anne have "Love While You Can."
  • Big Applesauce: It's important to the plot that the play takes place in New York.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both timelines end in a place of loss and hope; Liz has been widowed but has her beloved children and is finally starting doing the work she first set out to do in college while Beth is accomplished and acclaimed in her field while also being intensely lonely and increasingly disillusioned with her job. However she has plans to change careers and finally meets Josh.
  • Bookends:
    • The show begins with Elizabeth reminiscing about meeting up with Lucas and Kate in the park and choosing which one to leave with. The show ends with Beth meeting up with Lucas and Kate in the park and meeting Josh in circumstances very similar to his meeting with Liz. This is lampshaded in the first line of the song (and its reprise): "Here's how it starts, and here's how it ends..."
    • Kate in the beginning assures Lucas that she is not just a good kindergarten teacher, she is a "fucking great kindergarten teacher". In the Beth storyline, when she receives Kindergarten Teacher of the Year Award, he says, "You are a fucking great kindergarten teacher!"
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Liz breaks down with Anger Born of Worry when Josh has to leave for his third deployment. She breaks down further on hearing of his death.
    • Kate in both storylines when Anne cheats on her. Her defeated, bitter tone when Drowning My Sorrows can cause a gut punch for the audience.
  • But We Used a Condom!: Josh is surprised to hear that Liz is pregnant because they were "very safe." Liz snarks, "We are, but apparently New York City Transit novelty condoms, not so much."
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Lucas, in regards to his desire to have children. Causes a falling out with Beth when she has an abortion and doesn't tell him about it. In contrast, David in the Liz storyline sees it and encourages him to consider adopting a child.
  • Casting Gag: Lucas and Elizabeth are on-and-off lovers and social advocates played by Anthony Rapp and Idina Menzel respectfully, a callback to their first role together in RENT as the ex-lovers and social advocates Mark and Maureen. Note that RENT shares a director with If/Then.
  • Character Development: Most dramatic with Elizabeth; Liz and Beth evolve into very different characters over the course of the show, due to the circumstances and choices they make.
  • Chekhov's Gun: An extremely subtle one: the play opens with Elizabeth speaking about first meeting Josh in the park, and mentions how it was at the end of his third tour of duty with the Army. However as Josh has two tours in the Liz timeline and dies during the third, and he doesn't approach her in the park scene at the start of the play during the Beth timeline, it seems like a flubbed line or a weird inconsistency until the very end of the musical, when it turns out to have been Beth speaking, as she does eventually meet Josh in the park after his third tour.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: "What the Fuck?" repeats the titular phrase throughout the chorus when Elizabeth hits some difficult obstacles in her life.
  • Death Song: "The Moment Explodes" is about the feeling you get when you realize your life is on the line. No one actually dies, though.
  • Domestic Abuse: Elizabeth was abused by Orin in her past, which culminated in her leaving him at the start of the story.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Kate downs neat whiskey at the bar in the Beth storyline after learning that Anne cheated on her.
  • Eleven O'Clock Number: The penultimate song, "Always Starting Over," is a vocally powerful musical soliloquy where Liz comes to terms with Josh's death.
  • Everyone Went to School Together: Lucas, Elizabeth, and Stephen all were students together in college.
  • For Want of a Nail: Each storyline is different depending on the choices that Beth makes. Some notable examples:
    • Liz/Beth answering or ignoring her phone. Answering the phone, which Beth does, leads to her old colleague Stephen offering her a job in the commissioner's office. Not answering it leads to the deputy's nephew, an "idiot," receiving the job and doing such a terrible job that a child gets killed in traffic due to a poorly thought out intersection.
    • Lucas writing or not writing his book. Heartbroken in the Beth storyline after Beth aborts their baby, he finishes the book and becomes The Last DJ to community activists. In contrast, because he has David in the Liz storyline, he focuses more on their relationship than on the book.
    • Kate and Anne divorcing or staying together, depending on if Liz/Beth finds out. Beth does find out, and having just had a Near-Death Experience, she convinces them to try to get past their issues and give their relationship a chance to heal. Liz is grieving over Josh's death, and had no idea that they were divorcing.
    • Josh's third deployment. Liz's pregnancies delayed this deployment, so that when he finally ships out he gets killed. In the Beth storyline, he goes on his third deployment as scheduled and survives, so that he encounters Beth later in the park at the play's conclusion.
  • Friends with Benefits: Beth and Lucas briefly become sleep together after Stephen turns down her advances. However Lucas quickly becomes clingy, jealous, and demanding in ways he swore he wouldn't be, and the arrangement doesn't last long.
  • Genki Girl: Kate to some extent, as her constant positive energy and upbeat nature carries many of the same overtones as the trope. Heck, it's a big part of why she gets nominated Best Kindergarten Teacher of the Year, as she brings that same energy, enthusiasm, and unconventional approach to teaching.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Lucas shows this in both storylines when different men hit on Liz and Beth respectively. Meeting David in the Liz storyline allows him to get over it, but seeing Stephen flirt with Beth... he doesn't deal with it well. At all.
  • Grief Song: "Learn To Live Without" is about Beth and Liz coping with their respective loneliness, as Beth has no family due to being Married to the Job while Liz copes with losing her husband in the war.
  • It's All About Me: Liz confesses to being this when singing with Josh, but Beth shows it more when she plants a Forceful Kiss on Stephen, ignoring the fact that he's married and his wife has witnessed their gestures.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    Josh: I choose not to be hurt by that. I understand pregnant women are emotional.
    Liz: I'm not emotional. Fuck you, I'll kill you.
  • The Last DJ: In the Beth timeline, Lucas has become this to community activists, as one young woman oh so thoughtfully says "You're proof we don't all have to sell out when we get old!"
  • Love at First Sight: Played With when Lucas meets David in the Liz storyline; on meeting the latter he says, "You have a house? Hi, David."
  • Love Redeems: When David starts dating Lucas, the latter receives the impetus to grow up and mature. Even when David invites Lucas to move in officially, Lucas at first demurs because he's worried it's traditional. David tells him traditional is more than fine, and their relationship is real. It gets to the point where Liz trusts them to take her baby out for strolls.
  • Love Martyr: Lucas tries to be one for Beth, even singing a song about it. Then the two of them messily break things off when him being a Manchild at exactly the wrong time makes her decide to abort their child. They don't speak for several years after that, until Beth's Near-Death Experience makes her decide to seek him out and renew their friendship.
  • Love Triangle: Lucas is still in love with Beth, who just sees him as a friend. Beth has romantic tension with her colleague Stephen and kisses him, but also ends up sleeping with Lucas (and having an abortion due to an unexpected pregnancy).
  • Manchild: Discussed about Lucas, when his boyfriend David implies he is one when they discuss having children.
    Lucas: Children are needy, whiny and moody.
    David: I tend to find that endearing.
    Lucas: I see what you did there.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Kate is a minor example as her main purpose is to spunkily encourage Elizabeth to pursue her dreams (romantic for Liz, career for Beth), though she becomes disillusioned in both storylines when her girlfriend cheats on her. She encourages Beth to keep her job and her kindergartners nominate Beth as their hero.
  • Married to the Job: Beth dedicates her attention to work as a city planner at the expense of settling down and finding a family.
  • Milestone Birthday Angst: Elizabeth is 38 at the start of the musical, and part of her angst is about how she's close to 40 years old and doesn't have enough time to revive her love life and career, as seen in the opening number "What If?":
    "As I'm flirting with forty
    There's no time to wait
    And I can't help but feel
    I'm already too late!"
  • Near-Death Experience: During a business trip, Beth is on a plane that suddenly develops some technical problems. In the aftermath of this brush with mortality, she decides to make some changes to her life.
  • No Bisexuals: Discussed In-Universe. Liz tells Josh that she doesn't "believe in independents; it's like bisexuals, pick a side", and Kate is convinced that Lucas is gay, to the point of being shocked when Beth tells her she's pregnant with Lucas's child. Ultimately subverted in that Lucas's bisexuality is embraced by the narrative; he is romantically involved with a woman in one timeline and with a man in the other, though the word "bisexual" is never explicitly used for him — When Kate assumes Lucas is gay, Liz just explains that Lucas Experimented in College.
  • Parental Love Song: "Hey Kid" is Josh singing to his newborn child about how excited he is to watch the kid grow up.
  • Parting Words Regret:
    • Subverted; while Liz is mad at Josh for having to leave for his third deployment, she hugs him before he has to ship abroad. While she's shocked and grieving when he dies, she doesn't have regrets about their farewell. It's implied they kept in contact up to his death, so he knew that she still loved him.
    • Invoked; after her Near-Death Experience, Beth reaches out to Kate and Lucas, since she wants them in her life.
  • Spiritual Successor: To RENT. Aside from maintaining two members of the original cast and the New York-and-proud-of-it setting, the matters of artistic integrity, work and life balance, and passion (of romantic and vocational varieties) resound in both plays.
  • Split Timelines Plot: The story splits when Elizabeth decides to hang out with either Kate (the "Liz" timeline, where she focuses on romance and family) or Lucas (the "Beth" timeline, where she focuses on her career) at the park when she first moves to New York. The Liz timeline is told in Act I and the Beth timeline in Act II.
  • Tsundere: Lucas is this around David, not even willing to say "I love you" because he feels the words are too shallow to express the depths of his affections.
  • Wham Line:
    • During the last chorus of "What The Fuck?," Elizabeth lies in bed with a man. We can't see the man yet, and we can't tell if this is Liz or Beth. Then she sings, "I managed to involve my best friend" and it's clear that Beth ended up sleeping with Lucas.
    • During "I Hate You," when it becomes very clear that Josh died during his deployment:
    I hate that I hate you, I hate that I love you, I love you, I....loved you!