Next to Normal
July 12, 2011
The Deal: All families arent the same and that quickly becomes evident in Broadways Next to Normal - now playing at Blumenthal's Knight Theater. Rotating between tender moments to tearful shouting outbursts, repression to depression, drugs to electroshock therapy, the musical certainly gives its audience a case of the highs and lows. A winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three 2009 Tony Awards, its an emotional show down that skips out on the zippy feel-good fluff by focusing more on the raw reality bites of mental illness. But though subject matter is sad, the fusion of humor and a talented batch of backing musicians made the combo an altogether uplifting (and rocking) experience.
The Good: Delivery. The cast of six was at a super high. Diana, a mother battling grief and psychological disorders was played by Alice Ripley (a 2009 Tony Award winner for Best Actress). Throughout the show Ripleys voice took riveting turns, at times sounding deep and slightly monstrous as her character experienced tremendous bouts of sorrow. Dan (played by Asa Somers) and Gabe (played by Curt Hansen) were strongest together in a heartfelt scene of that touched on the acknowledgment of suppressed grief. But the shiniest gem of the performance was Emma Hunton who had a stronghold on the character of Natalie, the level-headed daughter to Diana who was constantly struggling on how to deal with her mothers issues and her own sadness and built up anger/resentment.
The Bad: The set was not so elaborate (though it certainly had a bit of an institutionalized feel), with only small changes throughout.
The Verdict: Its a truly touching drama that emphasizes the unpredictability of life situations to go either way, sometimes taking turns for the better or for the worse. The powerful storyline left a lot folks teary-eyed. Go see it, but come prepared - no mascara and tissues in hand. Show dates/times are as followed: July 14, 7:30 p.m.; July 15, 8 p.m.; July 16, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m.; July 17, 1:30 p.m. & 7 p.m. For more details, visit www.blumenthalarts.org.