Much more than normal

by guest blogger Gabrielle Abrams

ASU student Gabielle Abrams saw "Next to Normal" at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego on Jan 22, 2011

Next to Normal is a musical that jumps over the line that many musicals shy away from.

Many people will even shy away from the topics brought up in this heavy yet entertaining show.

Next to Normal deals with issues of depression, and those coping with family members who are being treated for mental illnesses.

The cast members in this show are intense, bringing an electrifying score to life. It’s a small cast of only six actors who carry along the entire show.

Each actor was amazing, hitting notes that so many can only dream of. They demanded the attention and it was difficult when all were on the scene at the same time to focus on only one of them.

Alice Ripley, who originated the role of Diana, is touring with the show and giving it her all. She is a fierce actress and hits the emotional scenes with such force and honesty.

Yet Ripley’s vocal performance is not what it used to be. The songs are draining on her voice and it seems much raspier and strained than on the original recordings. 

The set is unusual to most big Broadway musicals, being a more minimalist type set. The framework stays the same throughout the whole show and is formed to be a three story house as if you cut it in the middle.  

This allows the actors to move about in their own “rooms” and do something independent. This helped the scenes switch easily from one area to the other.

This is one musical that dares to go where none other has. The characters are well defined and are easily connected with. 

Next to Normal is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. This is one musical that shouldn’t be missed.

Note: Gabrielle Abrams is a journalism student at Arizona State University.

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