The title ‘Next to Normal,’ perfectly describes the show in relation to other musicals. It’s not your typical musical which consists of extravagant song and dance numbers, flashy costumes, and sometimes dazzling special effects - ’Next to Normal’ actually has none of that. With rock music, little spoken word, and simultaneous scenes it’s different, which is what makes the show so compelling.
‘Next to Normal,’ at the Victoria Theatre through May 19, is sometimes as chaotic as the central character, Diana (Trisha Rapier) whose bipolar. The show has a controlled chaos, while Diana’s mental disorder shows no restraint. Rapier is insanely good in the role, mastering the massive mood swings and delusions the character routinely faces. Whether making sandwiches on the floor or meeting with her doctor, Rapier is always in perfect tune with her vocals and portrayal of a tattered soul.
Diana’s mental disorder stems from a tragedy involving her son, Gabe (Eric Michael Krop). SPOILER ALERT: No, I’ll let you find out for yourself. However, I will say that Gabe isn’t exactly who he appears to be in the beginning. He’s reminiscent of a bad angel perched upon Diana’s shoulder that won’t go away and is a negative influence.
Much of the show’s focus is on the rest of families struggles from dealing with Diana’s mental state and her strong connection with Gabe. Her husband ,Dan (Jamie Cordes) suffers from depression and uncertainty of how to best treat the illness. While Diana’s teenage daughter, Natalie (Emily Price) feels covered by Gabe’s shadow. She’s forced to act out by developing some dangerous habits in order to gain some attention. All the family wants, including Diana, is to reach some level of normalcy.
Perhaps the biggest impression that ‘Next to Normal’ made on me, is that it’s very modern. Kind of a glimpse into the future of musicals, breaking the mold of such classics like ‘Oklahoma’ or ‘Guys and Dolls’ in the way its presented. The action on stage sometimes switches between literal and psychological realities and similar to a three ring circus, there’s often multiple scenes occurring all at once. Furthermore, Math has never been my best subject so my calculations might be a little off but I estimate that 80% of the dialogue is music. The music is splendid, the entire cast has powerful voices, but I don’t think there’s a single song that could be a stand alone hit. A lot of the music is also a little edgier than the norm, and could be categorized in the genre of hard rock. There is a mix of easy listening tunes, especially at the most heart wrenching moments.
An unbilled star of the show is the set, a single three story structure of the families house. Cast members are often at each of the levels and every transition is done seamlessly.
The supporting cast is all strong, including Natalie’s love interest, Henry (Jon Hacker) and JJ. Tiemeyer who plays both Doctor Fine and Doctor Madden.
‘Next to Normal’ does contain adult content and is not recommended for children.
‘Next to Normal’ is a theatrical experience that shouldn’t be missed. It continues through May 19 at the Victoria Theatre. Visit www.ticketcenterstage.com to reserve your tickets.