New Musical Glamorizes Urban Planning
If/Then is a new Broadway musical which tells the story of newly-divorced Elizabeth, an urban planner who moves back to New York City for a fresh start. The story offers her two possible futures: in one, she calls herself Liz, marries an Army reservist, and has two children; in the other, she’s Beth, a career woman who becomes New York City’s chief planner.
According to an article in The New Yorker, Character Study, Building Blocks, Elizabeth's character is based on Amanda Burden, who recently completed twelve years as Mayor Bloomberg's director of city planning. Brian Yorkey, who wrote the story and lyrics explained, "We wanted a profession that a dynamic, intelligent, glamorous, but also very detail-oriented and somewhat wonky woman would have." For research he read Jane Jacobs, studied the Atlantic Yards, and interviewed Harriet Tregoning, former head planner for Washington DC.
Despite mixed reviews due to the complex plot structure, the show enjoyed strong box-office returns. During its first full week of performances, the show debuted in the top 10. The show was highlighted by Entertainment Weekly as one of the hits of the 2013-2014 season. Variety described If/Then as being one of "the spring openers that have shown box office strength all along." Deadline.com highlighted the fact that If/Then was defying the odds as one of the few original musicals to perform strongly in recent years, with most original musicals only lasting around a month.
If/Then provides more evidence that planners are dynamic, glamorous but also somewhat wonky!