The New Next To Normal
Thur through Sat 8pm
Currently running at the Booth Theatre, Manhattan, the most critically acclaimed of the current Broadway shows is the award winning Next To Normal. With a star cast comprising Alice Ripley, J. Robert Spencer and Aaron Tveit, this musical manages to spotlight a myriad of situations and emotions that come from looking into the lives of a suburban manic depressive mother and her family. And unlike a feel-good musical, this one forces you through the emotions of discomfort, shock, anger and the entire gamut we would given a chance well like to avoid. The only difference is that instead of making you want to walk out of the theatre, this one keeps you on the edge of your seat. It’s nice to have that reassurance every once in a while that our lives are not that different from others, even though they may seem insanely so at times.
Directed by Michael Grief who has also worked on other Broadway shows like Rent, it is interesting to note that this is the second run of the musical. The earlier one was considered to be less edgy and therefore had less impact. Its tinges of sentimentality and comic exaggerations almost made it seem like a formulaic Hollywood film about a dysfunctional family. We’ve seen many of those and apart from a few rare insights; most of them tend to follow the same pattern all the way to a happy ending. So like a successful rehabilitation project, almost like therapy that magically succeeded the creative team reworked the script. And what you now is a musical so tight that you instantly grasp the lyricism that connects the seemingly disjointed characters. With most of the earlier cast and crew intact, there are only a few tweaks in the performances with most of the improvements credited to the crisp editing and score.
What is remarkable to note that despite the toning down of the deliberate attempts to entertain the musical is not dour. In fact with the contemporary music score that covers country western, rock and blues among other genres, the story unfolds at a brisk pace and in no time leaves the audience to their own devices. And as always, Broadway shows about mental illness tend to attract a different kind of audience. Some of them are initially sceptical and few come with the idea of wanting to be entertained. This is where Next to Normal surprises you. While discussing a tough subject about how mental illness not only affects the individual concerned but also the family at large, this musical draws the audience into the narrative of disarray yet gives them a tiny gleam of hope to cling on to.
As most successful Broadway shows go, the key is not in getting the audience to only identify with the emotions and characters the actors portray. There is a need for them to move beyond the obvious and onto the plane of greater contradictions coupled with a higher degree of identification. And this is expressly what the new Next to Normal manages to do; highlight both the seriousness and the lightness of suburban dysfunction.
To book your Next To Normal tickets for this musical, visit one of the online Broadway shows portals. Not only will you be able to avail of attractive discounts, but a few of them also offer home delivery and other value added services.
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