Long before "Frozen" and John Travolta made her famous, Idina Menzel was a certifiable Broadway star with enough box-office clout to open a show. On Sunday, the Tony Award-winning actress, who has appeared in the hit musicals "Rent" and "Wicked," officially returned to Broadway for the first time in a decade, heading up the new musical "If/Then."
"If/Then," which was written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning team from "Next to Normal," follows a thirtysomething woman's alternative destinies -- "Sliding Doors"-style -- in modern-day New York. Menzel previously played the lead role when the musical had a tryout run in Washington's National Theatre last year.
Menzel has reaped significant publicity following her appearance at the Academy Awards ceremony during which Travolta mispronounced her name prior to her performance of "Let It Go" from "Frozen." The exotically named "Adele Dazeem" became an Internet meme that spawned numerous jokes.
Since previews began earlier this month, "If/Then" has reported strong business at the box office. Last week, it grossed more than $1 million -- a robust figure for a new musical that hadn't officially opened.
Thank you, Adele Dazeem?
Ben Brantley of the New York Times wrote that Menzel "brings an anxious intensity to a featherweight part ... she keeps tight reins on the volume until a smashing climactic lament in the second act." As for the musical itself, "neither plot ... is terribly compelling or distinctively drawn," he said.
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney concluded that "the erstwhile Adele Dazeem looks and sounds sensational in a vehicle tailored to her talents, leaving no mystery as to why the audience adores her." But the musical is "a banal show about uninteresting people that strings together weary platitudes in place of a plot."
Linda Winer of Newsday wrote that Menzel "doesn't have much vocal variety, but that sound -- soft, medium, loud -- has a lustrous integrity." The musical "gets a little repetitious and could be tightened up, but not enough to jeopardize the conclusion that the most challenging lives start over every day."
The New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz wrote that Menzel "elevates the whole enterprise from a two-star review to respectable mediocrity... if Menzel wasn't around with her big belt and mellow warmth, there would be no reason to visit at all."
[Updated: a previous version of this post misidentified the reviewer for the New York Times article as Charles Isherwood. It is Ben Brantley.]