The City Sentinel

Searing and unforgettable – “Next to Normal” is a different kind of musical

Patrick B. McGuigan Story by on November 14, 2011 . Click on author name to view all articles by this author. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Seated at right, Stacey Logan as Diana visits with a therapist portrayed by Matthew Alvin Brown as she tries another time to conquer her mental illness in CityRep’s production of “Next to Normal/” The show continues this weekend at Civic Center Music Hall with performances Friday, Saturday and a closing Sunday Matinee (ticket info here). Photo by Wendy Mutz


by Patrick B. McGuigan
Executive Editor

Stacey Logan comes home to The Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre in ‘Next to Normal,” a stirring and often disturbing musical just months away from its first-round on Broadway. She is Diana, the wife and mother afflicted with demons of the mind which she, her family and for the most part her doctors cannot understand.

Her devoted husband Dan, with a share of suppressed issues that become clearer as the show advances, is played by Lane Fields in a strong portrayal of courage and conviction, with an undertow of vulnerability and worry.

Jennifer Hiemstra plays Natalie, the artistically-inclined daughter with brittle self-image, suffering her own inner battles due to her mother’s dreadful disease. Henry (Jordan Justice) is a boy at school who adores her, but whom Natalie barely notices until he makes himself unmissable. In the Second Act, their series of interactions entitled “Hey” are effectively rendered.

Anderson Daniel is Gabriel (Gabe) – the son who is, and isn’t, there. This is a performance that must be seen to be understood. It is deeply affecting.

Matthew Alvin Brown portrays two in the series of physicians who try to treat Dan’s wife, with the last character the most endearing. In fact, Brown and Diana get one of the rare light moments in the story, as he acts out the “rock star from hell” that she sees during their therapy sessions.

From a story and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, and the music of Tom Kitt, this is a powerful presentation of the national caliber musical. But don’t let “musical” fool you – this is a story ripped from the lives of families racked by the pain and disruption of mental illness. The language is raw, earthy and might offend some patrons. Be prepared.

The powerful narrative of this tale includes lyrics like “Love is blind, Love is insane.” In this rendering those words are literally true.

Singing highlights include Diana’s “I miss the mountains.” Perhaps the most beautiful and heart-breaking duet in the story is “I Dreamed a Dance” between Diana and Gabe late in the Act I. Not to give too much away, it conveys the loss of love and innocence, the yearning for certainty and stability that eludes many in this world.

In the end, despite a rousing closer that includes the words, “there will be light,” there is a lingering sadness, even heart-break in this story. Mother and daughter, estranged for virtually the entire story, finally reconcile in the duet, “Maybe (Next to Normal).”

This is only the fourth off-Broadway performance of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical and no surprise: our town’s professional troupe shines in the Freede Theatre preformances.

CityRep’s “Next to Normal” continues this second and final weekend, Fri., Nov. 18, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Nov. 19, 1:30 pm matinee, and 7:30 p.m., Sun., Nov. 20, 1:30 p.m. Is the closer.

Tickets are $8 (Student Rush Tickets and Military Personnel with Military ID), $20 (groups of eight or more), $30 (matinees) and $35 (evening performances), and may be purchased by calling the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office at 405.294.2264 or 1.800.364.7111.

Tickets may be purchased online through the CityRep website at www.cityrep.com, or through the Civic Center Music Hall Box Office website at www.okcciviccenter.org.
If you can take the pain of seeing a dramatic and often spot-on narrative about bipolar afflictions, performed magnificently, fortify yourself in advance whatever way seems best – then witness a searing and unforgettable story.

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