Next To Normal

Warren Kimmel, Caitriona  Murphy and Eric Morin. Photo by David CooperNext To Normal
Music by Tom Kitt
Book & lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Directed by Bill Millerd
Musical Directors Bruce Kellett and Ken Cormier
An Arts Club Theatre Production,
Stanley Theatre Industrial Alliance Stage
Jan 27 to Feb 27, 2011

Vancouver, BC:  Go and see Next to Normal. It's powerful stuff yet poignant, at times comedic and the characters will grab at your empathetic emotions and not let go. This rock musical garnered Tony awards for best score and orchestrations, as well as a somewhat controversial 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Millerd and his stellar cast did justice to every aspect of the show.

Jenny Neumann and Colin Sheen. Photo by David CooperNext to Normal is not  just about the devastation that mental illness can cause within a family, but about love, loss, and holding on far too long to something that's broken beyond repair. Diana (Caitriona Murphy) has suffered with bipolar disorder and hallucinations, possibly triggered by a traumatic event that occurred years before. The first clear sign we have that she is not your typical suburban housewife is her frenetic lunch preparation with sandwiches piling up on the floor.  Her husband, Dan (Warren Kimmel) wants desperately to recapture the young Diana that he fell in love with and has stuck by her through years of useless therapies ("I am the One"). In turn Diana gives us a glimmer of understanding about the pain of mental illness (and why some people won't take their medications) in "I Miss The Mountains" and "The Break".

Matt Palmer and Caitriona Murphy. Photo by David Cooper.Their daughter, Natalie, (Jennie Neumann) feels "invisible" ("Superboy and the Invisible Girl") in the face of her mother's obsession with her brother, Gabe (Eric Morin). And gradually we come to understand the root and nature of that obsession through Gabe's recurring pleading of "I'm Alive". Natalie learns to find hope in her developing relationship with her classmate Henry (Colin Sheen).

It might be hard to experience the unremitting pain of the four family members but lighter moments bring comic relief. Matt Palmer plays Dr. Fine, prescriber of myriad medications, and Dr. Madden, the psychoanalytic Superstar, who talks Diana and Dan into agreeing to electro-convulsive therapy. His superstar moments were quite hysterically funny. Another source of distraction comes from the literary references which can test your knowledge of plays, novels and film!

The cast are all fantastic with the younger actors, Neumann, Morin and Sheen matching the more experienced actors Kimmel, Murphy and Palmer both vocally and in performance. Morin has a particularly commanding presence as Gabe.

It's an unusual subject for a musical but handled with sensitivity and insight. Overall this is another great start to the Arts Club season; a "don't miss it" show. So don't miss it.

 For tickets call  the Box Office at 604-687-1644  or  book online

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