Fred Said

Review Blog

Next to Normal (Broadway)

Posted by Fred on November 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM

December 12, 2010



 


I watched this musical based on good reputation alone (multiple Tony nominations in 2009, 2 wins). I had no idea who the actors were. I had no idea what the music sounded like. I had a very vague idea about the story. I recall reading an article written by Ms. Lea Salonga about how this play tackled some psychological disorder like that, and that was it. Alright in all honesty, and the relatively inexpensive orchestra seats were a big come-on for me.

 

So finally, on the night of October 5, 2010, after a very full day on the Statue of Liberty (to the crown!), followed by a tour of Brooklyn, my wife and I watched "Next to Normal" at the Booth Theater on West 45th St.

 

While we were watching the play, I just could not believe how well the story was told. I could not describe it without spoiling it so I wouldn't. Suffice it to say here that this has quite an unusual theme for a musical. It tackles a dysfunctional family in which the mother was in the course of suffering a psychotic meltdown. Its brave book won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama earlier this year.

 

There is a consciously serious effort to put realism into the medical course and management of psychosis. There is a lot of talk about multiple drug therapy (there's a song called "My Psychotherapist and I"). There is even a 'shocking' scene of electro-convulsive therapy, and its aftermath ("Song of Forgetting"). Who would have thought we would witness a musical that did that! This downbeat topic was buoyed by a driving rock musical score (the score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey won the Tony), scathingly witty dialog (book by Brian Yorkey), amazing lighting displays and a very imaginative set construction.

 

The unfortunate mother Diana Goodman was played by Marin Mazzie. She was truly electrifying in her portrayal of the mental and emotional breakdown. Her pivotal scene about preparing sandwiches one morning was amazingly portrayed with heart-breaking impact. She has such a strong solid voice that effectively conveyed the rough psychological roller-coaster that her character was going through. It's hard to believe that Ms. Mazzie was not the actress who originated this complex role. (The original actress Ms. Alice Ripley won the Tony and other accolades for this role.)

 

Diana's husband Dan was played by Marin Mazzie's real-life husband Jason Danieley. Of course, their chemistry as the troubled couple was very palpable and real. Their son Gabe was portrayed by Kyle Dean Massey. This guy had great stage-presence and a very strong tenor, especially in the song "I'm Alive". Their daughter Natalie was played by pretty Meghann Fahy. She was also very good, but her performance was just ok when compared to the rest of the very talented main cast.

 

This was an excellent musical and is definitely a must-watch on Broadway. I was thinking if it would be possible to stage this play in Manila. I had no doubts about the acting and musical talent of a Filipino cast. But it might be the stage design that would be the challenge. When we came back, I found out that Atlantis would be staging this one next year, with no less than Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo and Jett Pangan as the doomed Mr. and Mrs. Goodman. Now, that is one play I would be watching for sure! (Next to Normal runs from March 11 to 27, 2011 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. For details, call Atlantis Productions at 892-7078 or 840-1187.)


Categories: Theater

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