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“If/Then,” featuring the lovably ditzy voice of Idina Menzel, zeroes in on the old theme of how life hinges on little things. Menzel plays Elizabeth, a divorcee newly returned to New York City. Does she stay in the park with one friend, or leave with another friend? The musical traces her in both directions, telling how things turn out. Eliza follows one path; Beth follows the other. It’s sort of like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie “Sliding Doors.”

Stories like this can be poignant, reminding us of our own lives and near misses. The very likable Menzel, who made a charming appearance in 2011 on the Buffalo Philharmonic’s Pops series, plays her part with considerable charm. The songs, by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, are less charming. They’re funny sometimes, but in a raunchy, cheap way. There are the usual paeans to New York City. The shadow of “Rent” looms large. Menzel and “If/Then” co-star Anthony Rapp also were featured in “Rent,” and the shows have the same director, Michael Greif. “No More Wasted Time” and “Love While You Can,” both from “If/Then,” echo “No Day But Today.” It’s a bleak philosophy, that today, this moment, is all that we have, and the humor, too, is bleak. It is all beginning to sound formulaic, all these New Yorkers who are stressed, confused, hurt and godless. Still, the mediocre songs are very well orchestrated and performed, and people like this stuff, maybe because it doesn’t challenge us to judge our own lives too harshly. Billboard reports that this CD is selling tremendously well, debuting at No. 19, the highest debut for a cast album since, you guessed it, “Rent.” 2 stars. (Mary Kunz Goldman)