Musical Review: Next to Normal

Details: Won a bunch of awards including a few Tony Awards. More information can be found at http://www.playbill.com/production/next-to-normal-booth-theatre-vault-0000001652

Score: 8.2/10

Next to Normal is a heart wrenching musical that hits a lot of the same emotional notes as Dear Evan Hansen, except the focus is less on a teenager and more on a parent. It’s advertised as a rock opera but sounds more like pop rock to me. Whatever it is, I really enjoyed both the story and the music.

Next to Normal is a story about a seemingly normal suburban family who then turns out to be anything but. As the story progresses we learn about the tragedy of this family and the characters must confront issues like loss, grief, sadness, mental illness, and moving on.

This is a family drama and explores some very deep emotions. The stage is a multilevel stage and the actors maneuver around when traveling from on location to another and from one psychological state to another.

The cast only consists of six characters and six actors. Despite the loud music, it’s an intimate show. With such a small cast, a lot relies on the acting and singing ability of these actors. Luckily every one of the actors does a great job. Among these actors, Alice Ripley is clearly the standout performance here. Aaron Tveit comes second and in my opinion, has the better sounding voice. Ripley’s singing is undoubtedly talented, it’s just really shout-y as well. Part of that can be attributed to the character she plays, but part of it is just the way her voice sounds.

The music is fantastic. It’s pop rock, but does a great job expressing the ideas the story is trying to convey. Despite the high tempo and high volume, I found myself becoming very emotional during a lot of these songs. It’s a great soundtrack I can see myself listening to outside of the show.

Overall, this is a great show. Unfortunately, it closed years ago and all the actors have moved on and aged out of their characters. I’m sure someone somewhere is performing a reproduction somewhere, though Next to Normal without someone as talented as Alice Ripley is undoubtedly a lesser show.

Score: 8.2/10

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