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Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Every time I discover a new musical, I suppose I explore it in phases and varying degrees of depth.  Currently, I'm in phase "obsessive-critical-analysis" with next to normal and I have to say I really love it!  I love the story, the acting, the music, the emotion, the use of staging & characters, the obvious and all of the subtleties.  I have said that I loved recent shows like [title of show], Spring Awakening and In the Heights and I still do, but all of these shows are so different and there is not comparing any of them.  And yet, there is something unique about a show like next to normal.  From what I've seen and heard, I think it is an example of what the American musical should be and it brings a fresh approach to the genre.   

**For those concerned, worry not, there are no spoilers in this post!**

Since the exclusive iTunes release of next to normal, I haven't been able to stop listening to it.  Each time I hear it, I listen for new subtleties, new ways of understanding the show.  My belief in the strength and love for this show is similar to that of The Last 5 Years and goodness knows, I've blogged a lot about that show (go to the link if you have to know what I'm taking about).  I was introduced to and fascinated by The Last 5 Years something like 4-years-ago and this is the first show since then that is as compelling to me.  Its thrilling to see a show on Broadway that isn't fluff and that is incredibly satisfying and real.  From what I've heard, the songs in next to normal are more of a narrative of each character that move the story along instead of characters who break into song while halting the scene to do so.  There is reflection from each character about not only their own situations but about the story line too.  As important as that is though, the plot itself is incredibly relevant and hits on what seems like as many emotions a person can have at some point in their lives.  

What I appreciate about next to normal is the similarities to real life which is never easy and has moments of heartache from time to time.  And like real life, you come back from that, you become stronger, you learn more about life and you become hopeful once again.  The incredible thing is that this show does this.  In this two hour show, you come into it feeling eager, anxious about what it is going to happen.  If you allow yourself to take the journey with the Goodman family (I love the not-so-subtlety of the surname of the family), they will break you down and by the end of the show, build you back up and give you the possibility of hope.  Its truly an amazingly phenomenal show.  Watch the video clips of the show and notice how in those few moments, what outstanding actors -- every single one of them -- were cast in next to normal.  Maybe its because I am obsessed with the show (and know what's going on), but I am mesmerized and I am practically in tears, particularly in the "I Am the One" clip.

When it opened, critics lauded Spring Awakening as "ground breaking" and though I loved it, I don't quite agree with that claim, nor do I think that because of Spring Awakening, that "Broadway will never be the same again".  I do believe that while it made an impact, it is next to normal that is more ground breaking and because of the subject matter and the honesty of its portrayal, that Broadway will never be the same again.  I believe that the success of Spring Awakening validated the rejuvenation of the rock musical and helped young people or those turned off by the idea of a sung-through, old-fashioned musical, look at musical theatre in a new light.  next to normal is all of those things and more -- a rock musical, honest, edgy, & daring.

Take the ride with next to normal, you won't be disappointed.


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