Thursday, May 12, 2016
Next to Normal
Yorkey and Kitt’s “Next to Normal” has a fantastic first act. The characters and stakes are quickly established and the plot has several surprises. Act two runs out of steam. The writers seem to shrug their shoulders and say “Sheesh. Doctors. Amirite?” The show went through extensive rewrites and the final version feels like a compromise. Still it’s exciting to see this subject matter treated with a modicum of respect. Diana’s treatment is as complex as her disorder and the limits of America’s mental health care system are laid bare.
I love the big numbers for Natalie and Gabe but wish Diana had a proper 11 o’clock number. Her angrier songs are constantly undercut by her husband’s counter melodies. It speaks to the dynamic of their marriage but denies her a proper "Rose's Turn" moment. The catharsis instead goes to her husband Dan. His (plot spoiling) reprise of I Am the One reduces me to a sobbing puddle every time I hear it.
EDIT: August 28, 2016
Here's a revised version that gets the leading man into the third frame.