I am sitting on the bus back to DC after just 2 hours of finishing the musical Next to Normal and it I am still in awe. I am not one to get emotional in movies. Sure I laugh at the witty wordplay and enjoy when the plot takes an unexpected turn, but rarely am i touched by a movie or a musical. Next to Normal is an exception to this.
Far from normal, this show is simply extraordinary. I will not give away to reveal in this show because it is quite good, but this show is about one family. A Mother (Diana) who is trying to hold onto her family, her 18-yr old son (Gabe) who is charming and everything his mother could wish for (who incidentally enough moves his body much like a great friend), her 16-yr old daughter (Natalie) who is trying to be perfect, her husband Dan who is working overtime as a husband and father. There is also Natalie’s Boyfriend (Henry) and the shrink (Dr. Madden).
This show is ultimately about how a family struggles to carve out an existence that doesn’t even come close to normal, but they are fine settling for something “next to” normal. You see:
- Diana has been diagnosed as Bi-Polar depressive with delusional episodes and a 16-year history of medication. One of the best taglines from the show comes from a song between her and her psycho-pharmacologist. “Valium is my favorite color how did you know?“
- Natalie struggles to be seen even as she excels at school and piano. She feels completely overshadowed by her brother, Gabe and vents this frustration in a great song called “Super Boy an the Invisible Girl”
- Gabe has codependency issues with his mother and is struggling to hang on to his own existence and sings about it in his epic song “I’m Alive”
- And Dan is struggling to hold everything together, determined to be the one that holds one and sticks through the pain and drama that is happening to his wife and his family because he made “A Promise”to stay with Diana in sickness and in health and he isn’t the type of man to break such a promise.
This show is humorous, deep, emotional and revealing all at the same time. The script won a Pulitzer Prize and in my mind this tagline says it the best. “This is more than a feel-good musical it is a feel-everything musical.“
I said above that I don’t get emotional in movies and musicals. Near the end of this show I sat in shock as 3 tears rolled down my cheek carving a trail that is a constant reminder that my life is far from normal but that doesn’t mean I can’t try for something next to normal.
Oh and yes I did buy a ”Super Boy” T-Shirt.