Published September 28, 2012 at 2:07am
Manic-depression. Anxiety. Suicide attempts and bottles upon bottles of prescription drugs. Hardly sounds like your typical Broadway musical about a “normal” family.
But in “Next to Normal” the meaning of “normal” is exposed and pulled apart in this Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning musical.
Arizona Theater Company kicks off its 46th season with this highly anticipated production, directed by David Ira Goldstein.
“Next to Normal” centers around the Goodmans, who at first appear to be the ultimate suburban family. There’s an older son, played by Jonathan Shew, who plays football and appears popular. The daughter, played by Andrea Ross, is the stereotypical involved, scholastically minded student, constantly stressing over her admission to Yale. And the father, played by Joe Cassidy, is a white collar worker, totes a briefcase in hand and a tie strung around his neck as he heads off to work in the morning.
But the image of perfect and normal is torn apart when the mother, played by Kendra Kassebaum, suffering from bipolar disorder, dumps an entire bag of sliced bread on the kitchen floor and proceeds to make sandwiches for her family’s bagged lunches. Truthfully, it realistically reflects how families deal with bipolar disorder and the difficulties which stem from it.
It sounds pretty depressing, right? But this emotional and often intense musical offers a more heartfelt and frequently humorous approach to such a heavy subject matter.
Don’t be mistaken — this is not your usual musical full of show tunes, tap dancers, bamboozlement and happy endings. In this brave show, the audience learns the truth about self-sacrifice and imperfect love, which will resonate with everyone.
Broadway and musicals were taking a different push into an unknown direction when “Next to Normal” first appeared in New York. Originally a college project created by two classmates in 1998, the script was altered over the years to appeal to more audiences.
For those who aren’t musical fans, the numbers offer genres you can appreciate, such as jazz and rock. A thrilling pop-rock score electrifies the plot, and even with melancholy lyrics, your senses are never dulled for a minute.
The set was made up of a giant dollhouse that models a conventional suburban home. The house had shattered and cracked glass panels to emphasize the strain the family is going through. The intimate cast of six characters play up and down the dollhouse set and overwhelm you with their powerful voices and stacked harmonies.
A “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” patient set in a natural setting shows that the craziness of life and things we suffer from cannot be contained by a hospital, but infiltrates “normal” lives.
“Most people who think they’re happy, just don’t think enough. Most people who’re happy are just stupid,” says the mother.
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