Wednesday night B & I saw Next To Normal at Playhouse Square. It was the last night of the inaugural Review Crew’s duties. It was a bittersweet feeling – I felt proud to know that the first season was through, but sad that our time as Playhouse Square insiders was over. And that’s exactly the feeling the end of the musical – bittersweet.
The show was incredible. The set was really unique – it was stationary, hardly ever moving or changing, yet providing the backdrop for every scene in the play, from a kitchen to a doctor’s office to a high school dance. The orchestra was incredible – not only was the rock music refreshing and catchy (even when the lyrics were depressing, I found myself bopping my head and tapping my toes, it was that entertaining), but the members of the ensemble were all scattered throughout the set.
Without beating around the bush – the lead actress, Alice Ripley, did not live up to the hype. I really really really wanted to like her – she’s from Cleveland (went to Kent State), is a member of the original cast and even won a Tony award for this very performance when the play first came out. Her singing was just uncomfortable. Maybe she had a cold? Whatever it was, it sounded like every song was forced and that she was holding her true voice in.
That being said, the other actors were incredible. The story itself was amazing. The play was well-written, the actors were great and the plot intriguing. For those of you that don’t know what it’s about – read this first, and then decide if you want to see it. In plain words – and without giving away the surprise that I didn’t see coming – it’s a depressing, not-uplifting storyline. It’s about mental illness and all the ways a family is affected by it. It’s about losing loved ones and letting go. It’s not a happy, upbeat musical. When the curtain lifts at the end, you’re left with a haunting feeling, and want to ask yourself, “well, where do we go from here?” But that, in itself, and the fact that I’m still thinking about the play and how it made me feel – is the very reason the musical is worth seeing.
If you’re looking for a feel good, average musical, Next To Normal is not for you. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t see it – quite the contrary, as it was amazing. It’s a show that gives you an insider’s look into the lives of a seemingly normal family, that’s falling apart. It’s a show that makes you think about yourself and examine the life you’re living. It’s a show that stays with you.
The show is in town through the 19th. Buy tickets today here.
See what the other Review Crew members had to say:
Plus – here’s my new favorite song … such great music!