As I left the Miracle Theatre following today’s matinee performance of “Next to Normal,” I overheard people saying how the show was really good, but the subject matter was depressing.
What an ironic (and tactless) choice of words for a musical that focuses on a family affected by the mother’s bipolar disorder, dealing with both manic and depressive states.
“Next to Normal” began its run on Broadway by winning three Tony Awards in 2009 and also took home the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010.
It very much follows in the same vein as “Rent,” which kickstarted the rock ‘n’ roll-themed musical, focused on contemporary issues and created a minimalistic set design.
Though “Next to Normal” can be very grim at times — dealing with concepts such as suicide and self-mutilation — it also has its comedic side. It’s very much (in my opinion, at least) a great dose of dramedy. What comes to mind is last year’s film “crazy, stupid, love.” but with more serious issues at stake in this tale.
In one memorable scene in which the mother, Diana Goodman, visits her psychopharmacologist, the cast lists off her favorite pills in a tune comically imitating “My Favorite Things” from “Mary Poppins.”
This musical takes on abnormal psychology (something I studied as a minor in college) in a whole different medium. Often, similar subjects are portrayed completely grim and hopeless. Here, it’s acknowledged how things such as prescription drugs and depression are very much prevalent in our society.
Without going too much into the plot as to keep an early major twist secret, the acting and singing in this production is superb. Each member brings emotional depth to the characters.
My only beef: There is too much music in it, at times pushing aside perfect times for dialogue that is rather thrown into lyrics and song.
“Next to Normal” runs at the Miracle Theatre on Miracle Mile in Coral Gables until Feb. 12.