Next to Normal is a ground-pounding Broadway musical that demands you sit up straight and listen. It's a nonstop look into the stop/start life of a bipolar mother and the hell her unreality wreaks on her husband, daughter and son as she rides the sharp edge between coping and insanity.
The show is nearly completely sung. The cathartic emotion explodes through rock music tempered with swelling and floating ballads. N2N moves like a roller coaster as it twists us into the manic-depressive world of the show's central character, Diana (Alice Ripley). She rarely sees her world accurately, but Diana pulls us into her happy place that has driven her family over the RPM red line. In N2N the future of the American family stays rooted but could well be doomed.
N2N is drawing in younger audiences just like Director Michael Greif's RENT. Few of us have ever dealt with a mother like Diana, but it's through Greif's direction, Brian Yorkey's turbulent book and lyrics, and Tom Kitt's music that we connect with our own repressed angst. From the emotional reaction this show is drawing, it's clear that fans think the ticket price is worth twice the cost of psychotherapy.
Before a recent performance I spoke with Aaron Tveit who plays the seventeen-year-old son Gabe. Like the rest of the cast, Tveit bites deep into his role and never lets go. Tveit's talent is nimble, full of life, and direct. Singing the show's stand out power-romp duet, Superboy, and the Invisble Girl with Jennifer Damiano, it's clear 'Tveit' will be a name everyone will soon know how to pronounce.
I'm delighted that in my happy imagined place, Ethel Merman is watching Tveit and smiling for the future of Broadway.
Rounding out the cast are J. Robert Spencer, Adam Chanler-Berat, and Louis Hobson.
Next to Normal is playing at the Booth Theatre. Click here for tickets.