Next to Normal
Lyrics by Brian Yorkey and Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Timothy Williams
Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando FL
So these two guys are sitting around and one says to the other: “A musical about Electro Convulsive Therapy! No one’s ever done that before!” and here we are. Diana Goodman (Melissa Minyard) never got over the death of her 18 month old boy Gabe (Brandon Allen Wood). He’s dead and gone to her husband Dan (Stephan Jones) but to Diana he’s now a whiney and persistent teen age apparition demanding her time and energy. She even makes him sandwich for lunch and reminds him about Key Club and Football practice. While Dan is the most tolerant supportive husband imaginable, their real live daughter Natalie (Emily Walton) is about ready to bug out and her boyfriend Henry (Damian Barry), while supportive, is wondering if any of this might be genetic. Diana tries drugs, therapy, hypnosis, herbs and after a while there are only two options – Big Nurse, or The Big Sleep.
You might argue this is an opera; the whole story is sung or at least recited. Minyard is effortless as a singer, dark songs like “You Don’t Know” and “The Break” are Tony material and while the rest of the cast hustles to keep up with her, they’re never far behind. Jones gets his most powerful number with “I Am the One” and there a sweet ballad between Henry and Natalie in “Perfect for You.” The supporting actor Dave Shipman plays the various medicos that rule Diana’s non-imaginary life, he gets some truly funny stuff air guitaring “Dr. Rock” and reciting all the pill combinations that Diane has to keep straight. Both Emily and Henry start every interaction with “Hey” and exude that awkward adolescence that says “I’m actually cool / I feel like a dork.”
Musically strong and internally dark this rock musical feels like it’s ready to explode into a rock concert on every song, the guitarist (D. J. Pipkin) struggles to keep the sound from blasting into concert hall amplitude, and they keep the drummer (Landon Baker) hidden behind a screen least he deafen us. “Next to Normal” is a challenging show for both audience and cast, but Director Williams keeps our meds just right.
For more information on Mad Cow, please visit http://www.madcowtheatre.com