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Next To Normal

About a year ago, I think, our beloved agent took us to see an off-Broadway play a friend of his was starring in. The play was called Next to Normal, a musical about bipolarity, and the friend was Alice Ripley, an actress and rock singer I didn't know much about. I was dubious, but I will famously see anything, so we went.

And were blown away.

The music was real rock, not musical-rock. Alice Ripley was electrifying as the bipolar heroine trying to negotiate her life through a haze of psychotropic medication and soul-deep pain. The script was sensitive and unsentimental, the set and staging interesting and innovative. There was stuff wrong with the play--a couple of songs that felt like they came out of left field, direction that occasionally bordered on the cartoonish, the psychiatrist played as a villain out of melodrama. But it was fresh, non-formulaic--different.

And now it's on Broadway.

We went to see it last night--again with BA, who had seen it in tryouts in Washington, DC, and wanted us to go again. It was better than ever, he said--the Electroshock Rock number cut, the doctor humanized, the direction pulled in. And he was right.

It's a wonderful show--entertaining, accomplished, often very funny and always compassionate towards its characters. It's also extremely sad. I soaked a handkerchief, and the lady behind us was practically sobbing. But it 's not exploitative, it's not facile, it neither romanticizes madness nor melodramatizes it. And the end leaves the heroine--and the audience--with a reasonable hope of a life that might, with work, someday be, not normal, but next to normal in a positive way.

It's still in previews, so TDF tix are plenty. The theatre's not very big, so you don't miss anything sitting in the balcony (which is where we were). I have no idea what the critics will make of this--it's not feel-good in any normal way, the emotional rhetoric is confusing to an audience used to the scripted arcs of TV and movies, the ending happy only for some variant value of happy. But it's something new happening on a Broadway that's becoming more and more predictable and homogenous, and I really, really want it to do well.

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Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
marykaykare
Apr. 2nd, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
I'm hoping to be in NYC in the not too distant future. I'll want to catch it if it's still going. My diagnosis is Bipolar 2 but that's quite enough to be going on with. (Hypomania only, alternating with full blown depression.)

MKK
deliasherman
Apr. 2nd, 2009 03:41 am (UTC)
Check Broadwaybox.com or Theatremania for discount tickets. Nobody should pay full Broadway prices for anything, unless they really, really have to.

marykaykare
Apr. 2nd, 2009 03:48 am (UTC)
Thank you!

MKK
vertical_chaos
Apr. 2nd, 2009 10:38 am (UTC)
Hope you don't mind me jumping in. :) While I will pay full-price to support a show I love, especially one that could struggle to find an audience scared away by the subject matter (and I have paid full price for 2 of my tickets to the Broadway run) because discounted tickets all the time aren't going to help them make "nut" and ensure the ability to survive, here's a link to a code for $60 tickets...

http://www.nexttonormal.com/friendsandfamily

:) Enjoy!!!!! It should be running through at least the Tonys (June 7).
ellen_kushner
Apr. 2nd, 2009 02:17 pm (UTC)
How wonderful of you to post the specific code for this show - and to have seen & liked it, too!

I wanted to add that it's also about the woman's family (Delia originally had a great line about this, but it was a spoiler so I made her take it out), particularly her teenage daughter, a terrific young singer/actress who debuted in "Spring Awakening." The revisions have given her more of a parallel story, so I'm hoping word-of-mouth will start drawing in the SA/Wicked crowd . . . I know so many kids who suffered from troubled moms - I think it would be great to see a show in which a girl was having to deal with it, too.
vertical_chaos
Apr. 2nd, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
It is simply put my favorite show EVER. I've seen it 25 times between 2econd Stage (14), Arena (10), and Broadway (1 so far...at least 5 more scheduled). It just hits me whee I need to be hit I guess.
deliasherman
Apr. 2nd, 2009 10:04 pm (UTC)
You must have overlapped with our Beloved Agent, then. He's seen it even more times than you have, I think. He says he knows ALL the parts by heart. And I believe him.
vertical_chaos
Apr. 2nd, 2009 10:08 pm (UTC)
Probably so. He and I have probably seen each other before. :)
vertical_chaos
Apr. 2nd, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you've loved it! I've been following the show since its incarnation at 2econd Stage last year and absolutely adore it. :)

The thing that makes me most hopeful with the reviewers is really two. 1) It got pretty good critical response in the 2econd Stage run. Just a few quibbles here and there. In the DC run, they fixed almost every quibble the critics had. 2) It got nearly across the board raves in DC during that run which is much closer to what they're doing onstage now. So I'm thinking it should be pretty set for great reviews. Now...onto the Tony nominations... :)
elswhere1
Apr. 8th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
It was AMAZING. I too was dubious, but figured if you and Ellen liked it so much it must be good. And lo and behold, it was beyond good. I want to talk and talk about it today, but am settling for blogging and reading websites.
t_windling
Apr. 9th, 2009 11:19 am (UTC)
Oh, I so want to see this!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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