Next To Normal
March 7 – April 4
The Morgan-Wixson Theatre
Santa Monica, CA
Next To Normal tells the story of a mother, Diane Goodman, who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effect that her illness has on her family. This contemporary musical is an emotional powerhouse that addresses such issues as grieving a loss, ethics in modern psychiatry, and suburban life. With provocative lyrics and a thrilling score, this musical shows how far two parents will go to keep themselves sane and their family’s world intact.
Matt Artson as Dr. Fine / Madden
Amy Coles as Diana
Zoe D’Andrea as Natalie
Billy Hicks as Gabe
Terrence Jegaraj as Henry
David Meinke as Dan
Community theatre can be tricky. You can’t know going into it just what you are going to get. It can definitely be hit or miss but that’s part of the fun, right?
Next To Normal is one of those musicals that I had heard of but hadn’t had the change to see. I kept watching for it but it never seemed to go up nearby. So, you can imagine my excitement when I got an invite to check out a local production of the show I’d been wanting to see for a while.
Luckily, this one of those community theatre productions that gets it mostly right. It’s a great company who put a lot of heart and soul into the production.
The theatre is a decent size but still feels intimate. The crowd was an eclectic mix who all seemed to enjoy the show. It seemed to be a community that truly loved their local theatre and were happy to be there seeing the latest production which was a pretty neat feeling.
The stage was set up with a two story wooden structure to simulate the families home. Various props were tucked away for easy movement and scene changes. It was a really great set and was put to use rather well throughout the show.
The cast is wonderful. They each embody their characters and bring them to perfect life. Vocally, everyone was strong and really sold their songs.
I do want to point out two of the actors who I thought were absolutely terrific. Zoe D’Andrea who played Natalie and Terrence Jegaraj who played Henry. I absolutely loved them. They had great chemistry and for me were the most interesting part of the show. Natalie and Terrence were just captivating. I was looking forward to every moment they were on stage. I really see great things for the both of them in the future and hope to see more of their work very soon.
That’s not to take away from the rest of the cast. Everyone did a wonderful job. I was really impressed with how great of a cast it was.
There were a couple negatives though. Firstly, the music is track based. So while the actors are performing live, the backing music is piped in via a CD or whatever it is. This is sort of distracting a makes me wish they could have a live band but, of course this is community theatre so space and budget probably prohibit that. I think a better mixing of the audio would go a long way to making a more seamless sound. To be fair though, the vocals were absolutely top notch despite the backing music.
The other issue I had was with the direction. I think the stage direction could have been a little more fluid and less static. Some more intimacy and closeness between the actors would go a long way and taking this production to another level.
That said, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre’s production of Next To Normal is still worth your time and money. The cast sells it completely even with the minor shortcomings I pointed out. See it if only to see some future superstars doing some really great work.
Next To Normal runs now through April 4.
For tickets and more information, please visit morgan-wixson.org.
Garon Cockrell is the Founder and Editor of Pop Culture Beast and host of The Pop Culture Beast Show. He founded the site over seven years ago to have a place on the internet to write about the things he loved. Since then, Garon has become a best-selling author (Demonic and Other Tales), an award winning screenwriter (Best Screenplay 2013 Motor City Nightmares Film Festival), and a cast member on the top rated podcast, Never Not Funny.