After years of manifesting getting Next To Normal in the UK, my dreams have finally been realised. It was never my attention to review this show, however I felt utterly compelled to do so after watching this production. Although there is a lot more I would love to say, I felt it important to keep my thoughts spoiler free to not ruin the show for those lucky enough to have a ticket.
Next To Normal tackles mental health struggles with compassion, humanity and sensitivity whilst never sugar coating the difficult themes. I always believe that theatre should make you feel, and Next To Normal is an absolute rollercoaster! The simplistic set works perfectly in creating an intimate atmosphere that pulls the audience into the world of the Goodman family. I couldn’t imagine it working quite as well in a bigger house, however I’d be shocked if this doesn’t get a transfer after it’s sold out run at the Donmar! It features a revolve, which outside of Hamilton, I have never seen used so well.
The show is mostly sung through, something that quite honestly I’m not always a fan of. However here it works perfectly, with almost 2.5hours flying by in a heartbeat. The music by Tom Kitt is outstanding, with a collection of different styles weaved through the score.
Having loved Cassie Levy in her portrayal of Molly in Ghost on its original Manchester run, I knew she had what it took to make an audience ‘feel’. Levy however took it to a level that even I didn’t anticipate, with her beautifully understated and nuanced interpretation of the complex Diana. Diana’s bipolar is believable without being played too obviously or over the top. Her voice is of course sublime, with her vocal choices on ‘I Miss The Mountains’ being goosebump inducingly good. There is a reason she is Broadway royalty and it was a joy to have her back on a UK stage.
She is supported by Jamie Parker as husband Dan, and Trevor Dion Nicholas as a series of doctors who treat her. Fresh from making me and hundreds of others cry in Benjamin Button, Parker has some great moments and really encapsulates the reality of being married to someone suffering with their mental health. Trevor Dion Nicholas is of course fantastic, it is only a shame we don’t get more of him.
The couples children Gabe and Natalie are played by Jack Wolfe and Eleanor Worthington Cox respectfully. Knowing much less about them, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However they stole the show completely for me. I could listen to Wolfe’s ‘I’m Alive’ every day for the rest of my days and never tire, he’s just that good. If he doesn’t win an Olivier for this role I would be astounded. Worthington-Cox of course already has an Olivier to her name as one of the original Matilda’s. But if ever a second one was deserved, she has more than earnt it here. With the Donmar having a history of launching careers of some of our greatest actors (Eddie Redmayne for example), I can’t wait to see what awaits this pair.
The cast is completed by Jack Ofrecio as Henry. He is endearing and sweet in his portrayal. Although he has much less of a role in comparison to the two other younger performers, he more than holds his own in an accomplished performance.
Not only is Next To Normal one of my shows of the year, it is getting pride of place as one of my favourite productions of all time. I implore you to keep your eye on the Donmar’s website for returns to appreciate everything that this spoiler free review couldn’t mention, this show really is spectacular.
Note: My ticket was paid for. Irrespective of whether a show is gifted or bought, I always ensure that my reviews are fair and based on my honest opinion alone.