This past Friday and I headed over to the Arena Stage at their temporary location in Crystal City, Virginia to see ‘Next to Normal,’ written by Brian Yorkey and directed by Michael Greif with music by Tom Kitt.
The show made its debut off-Broadway this year and has been nominated for Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Actress (Alice Ripley) and Outstanding Score. It is basically the story of Diana Goodman, played by Alice Ripley, who suffers from bipolar disorder and/or schizophrenia. She can’t let the memory of her dead son (played by Aaron Tveit) go and her internal struggles impact the lives of her husband Dan (J. Robert Spencer) and daughter Natalie (Jennifer Damiano). For a full synopsis visit the Wikipedia article on Next to Normal.
The production quality overall was excellent and I was particularly impressed by the stage design. The story itself is a bit average in my opinion however the musical score keeps the pace tight and energetic. The cast was decent and I felt that J. Robert Spencer and Aaron Tveit in particular delivered excellent performances.
Many might disagree with me on this but I actually was disappointed with Alice Ripley’s performance as Diana. Although her acting was good I felt her vocals were the weakest of any of the cast members. She was consistently flat throughout throughout her performance and her imprecise intonation really detracted from my enjoyment of the performance and made it difficult to become completely engaged in the narrative.
I’m glad whenever any Broadway or off-Broadway show comes to DC (we need more cultural events here) so I was happy to pay the price of admission in support of ‘Next to Normal.’