If a show is extended multiple times, that’s the sign of a "Production Not to be Missed". I am here to tell you that there are many reasons why “Next to Normal” was extended at TheaterWorks, and if you don’t have a ticket to this rendition of this highly-emotional, Pulitzer-Prize winner, then I suggest you try very hard to get one. And this recommendation is coming from someone who saw the original production on Broadway. I won’t waste space here with a synopsis. Instead, I’ll tell you the Top Five Reasons You Must Beg, Borrow, or Steal to get a ticket to this show before it closes on May 14th:
#5: It’s a fantastic piece of musical theater. It’s a rock musical that Ben Brantley of the New York Times called a “feel-everything musical”; you will be entertained, touched, moved, and devastated, all in two hours with electric guitars. Trust me, it works.
#4: The set design by Wilson Chin and lighting design by John Lasiter. The gorgeous set is made up of square shelves with lamps and other objects, turning the stage into a curio cabinet of memory and light. Hundreds of LED lights behind the shelves which add to the overall mood of the scenes.
#3: Direction by Rob Ruggiero and music direction by Adam Souza. An intimate space like TheaterWorks’ stage is a near-perfect setting for something as emotionally- wrought as NTN, and the directors use it to their full advantage. Ruggiero uses the aisles as part of the staging and much of the action takes place up close and personal; Souza’s musical moments of quiet and closeness are as electric as the rocking belting numbers.
#2 THIS CAST WILL BLOW YOU OUT OF YOUR SEAT. Christiane Noll creates a Diana that balances humor and gravity with aplomb and flair in fantastic voice, better than Alice Ripley in my opinion; John Cardoza’s (Gabe) rock tenor voice soars; David Harris’ Dan is filled with hope and steadfastness that is heartbreaking; Maya Keleher’s (Natalie) vocal abilities are absolutely tremendous, which will serve her well as her career takes off (as it should!); Nick Sacks’ authentic portrayal of Henry was far better than Adam Brian Chanler-Berat’s on Broadway (sorry, dude, but I liked your Nino in “Amelie”!); and J.D. Daw nails the doctors in great voice and his “rock star” moment was hilarious.
#1 Because I said so. Now go and get that ticket, if you can!
Tara Kennedy has been performing in some capacity since the age of 5, primarily as a tap dancer and in musical theatre. Her favorite roles include Florence in Chess, Dr. Eve Bolinger in Sordid Lives, Phyllis Dale in 42nd Street, and Blanche in Brighton Beach Memoirs. She has no formal degree in theatre, but has studied acting, voice, and dance since childhood as a pastime, and is an avid fan of theatre and performance. She holds a BA in Art History from Northwestern University, an MLIS/CAS in Library Science/Preservation and Conservation Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MS in Forensic Science from the University of New Haven. She is also a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle.
Photo: Lanny Nagler