Saturday, March 31, 2012

Broadway Revisited: Next to Normal

Tonight I went to see a local Boston production of Next to Normal at Boston Center for the Arts.  I first saw the show back in New York City on Broadway in 2009. 

I first had heard about this show from friends who had seen it and were blown away by its non traditional use of rock, which took a story different from most on Broadway.  Normal centers around a mother, Diana, who is suffering from a bipolar mental disorder, and the effects it has on her husband, daughter, and son.  There is one spoiler that I do not want to give away, but the show deals with dark issues like depression, death, suicide, and other modern day issues like psychiatry, and suburban life.

The show had its bumps in the road, the cast slightly changed, but the creative team of Brian Yorkey, who wrote the book and lyrics, and Tom Kitts who wrote the music.  These two men helped to create one of my top five favorite Broadway shows of all time.  Their show is the emotional ride, that has incredible depth and music that pierces the soul.  Kitts won two Tony awards for this show for Best Orchestrations and Best Score, while the duos second pair Yorkey won for Best Score.  The duo also won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Drama in 2010 an incredible honor, and rarely is given to a musical.

Watching the show tonight made me think about seeing the show three years ago with the fantastic original case.  The original cast included the Tony Award winning (for this role) Alice Ripley. Ripley played the central character Diana battling with bipolar disorder.  J. Robert Spencer was also Tony nominated and played Diana's husband Dan.  Spencer was brilliantly vulnerable and showed terrific range in his acting and singing.  Jennifer Damiano played Natalie their daughter.  Natalie is this angst ridden and dealing with mother's disease while struggling to battle adolescence, and the potential fear of her mother's disease effecting her.  Damiano was a relative newcomer but she also landed a Tony nomination for her role.  Aaron Tveit rounded out the family playing Gabe the son.  Tveit did a solid job in his first show, and has since done more work proving his talent and charisma on stage.  The rest of the cast was rounded out with Louis Hobson who played both of Diana's doctors, and Adam Chanler-Benet who played Natalie's love interest Henry.

Seeing the show, and hearing the beautiful music allowed me to transport myself into the emotion world when I first saw this show.  I remember connecting with the characters emotional struggles on a deeper level than any musical I had ever seen before.  Watching Diana struggle through her emotional experiences, and fight to become sane is gripping.  The same can be said for Dan's journey.  Dan often wonders if he is the one who is crazy because he sits by as his wife descends into depression, while he can do nothing.  The performance below says it all about this show, enjoy, and if you have not experience this show, you should find a way to listen to at least listen to the wonderful music.

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