By R. J. DONOVAN
Special to the BIR
We face choices every day. Which flight to take, which job to accept, which person to date? You try to make an informed decision, but the question quietly lingers: What if you had chosen differently? How might your life have been impacted?
That’s the intriguing idea explored in the original, contemporary musical “If/Then,” named Best Musical of the Year by New York Magazine. With music and lyrics by the Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning team of Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt (“Next To Normal”), the show’s national tour plays The Boston Opera House from July 5 to July 17.
“If/Then” follows two distinct story lines in the life of one main character. Elizabeth (played by Jackie Burns) is a newly divorced city planner who moves to New York to restart her life. In a city of infinite possibilities, her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate and her life splits into two parallel paths. “If/Then” follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance.
Corey Greenan is a member of the show’s ensemble. He plays a variety of New Yorkers, including the deputy mayor, as the story whisks along. He also understudies the principal roles of Josh and Stephen, the two men whose stories collide with Elizabeth’s.
Originally from Northern California, Corey got his big break playing Sky in the national tour of “Mamma Mia.” He was subsequently invited to join that show’s Broadway company. He has also been seen in “Scandalous” on Broadway as well as in regional productions of “Damn Yankees,” “Evita” and “I Am Harvey Milk.” He’s a theatre graduate of Pepperdine University.
We spoke by phone when “In/Then” was playing in North Carolina. Knowing he’d be speaking with The Boston Irish Reporter and expecting to discuss his heritage, Corey said, “I was thinking about (our) show in terms of that. There’s nothing more Irish than coming to New York to make a new start, and this show is that!”
Q. Can you identify with the “what-if” theme in this show?
A. That’s what’s neat about this show. Everyone can relate to making a choice and living with the consequences. And wondering if it would have been a different situation if the choices had been different.
Q. Did you ever consider choosing a profession other than theater?
A. In my twenties, this was the only thing I could see myself doing. But now, I’m like, okay, I could see a different choice being made. But the way it worked out for me, there really were no other options at the time. (Laughing) I’m not really qualified to do anything else.
Q. Anthony Rapp (a member of the original company of “Rent”) is in your cast. You’re working with a legend.
A. Man, that guy is the professional of all professionals. He is so focused and so consistent. And on top of that, he is just a really great company member. He engages everyone around him. He’s got our Thursday night poker game going . . . He’s a very smart, very intense guy, but he’s become a wonderful friend. I gotta say I sit in awe of him sometimes. But then, you know, we’ll be busting his chops the next minute!
Q. Jackie Burns plays Elizabeth, the role Idina Menzel created in the original Broadway production. Interestingly, like Idina, Jackie also played Elphaba in ”Wicked.” Tell me about working with her.
A. Jackie is a force of nature in her own right. She is awesome . . . The reviews she gets in every city are unreal . . . She’s a different person than Idina, so it’s been neat to see the same character played by these two incredible, strong, and talented women in their own ways (at different times during the tour).
Q. You get to play multiple roles in this show. That must make for a lot of quick changes backstage.
A. It is kind of neat. All of us in the ensemble are “peopling” New York City. We’ve got to fill that space and represent all these different types of people you find in the city. It’s nice to be able to do a lot of different little things throughout the show. It keeps it very interesting.
Q. Have you had a chance to step up and go on as either Josh or Stephen?
A. Never for Stephen . . . but the last weekend we were in Detroit I got to go on for Josh (usually played by Matthew Hydzik) . . . And not only was I able to go on, I was also able to go on for a weekend. That was four shows, two days in a row, with a sleep in between.
Q. Did you have time to prepare, or what it a last minute thing.
A. It was last minute. It was a 2 o’clock matinee and I think I found out pretty close to 1 p.m. . . . The first (show) is always a little “deer-in-the-headlights” no matter how well you know the part. It’s just not what you’re used to. To be able to do it four times in a weekend was really great . . . everyone was so supportive.
Q. To end where we started, talking about your heritage, I understand you had a very welcoming experience during a trip to Ireland.
A. We were coming out of Belfast, and coming south we went into this little town called Cootehill. And like any little Irish town, there‘s a nice little main street with a church right at the end of it, and ten pubs lining either side. I went and discovered this little Greenan Pub. It was such a find! It was just the most quintessential thing. Once they found out my name, they brought out the guitars. Someone started playing “Danny Boy.” I don’t know that it could have gotten any more Irish than that moment.
- R. J. Donovan is Editor and Publisher of onstageboston.com.
If/Then,” July 5 - 17, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA. Info: 800-982-2787 or BroadwayInBoston.com.