Next To Normal ★★★★★ Wyndham’s Theatre | Jun 18 - Sep 21, 2024

Definitely not your usual "moon in June" musical, Next To Normal confronts its audience with some extremely challenging subjects. A family struggles with the twin trials of mental illness and grief, and the brutal realities of these adversities are unflinchingly exposed. Diana has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and despite her husband and daughter being supportive, Diana's behaviour takes a toll on both of them. While husband, Dan, looks for therapeutic solutions, daughter, Natalie, seeks refuge in schoolwork and music. However, Diana's issue ultimately defies the former and upends the latter. Next To Normal searingly reflects the effects of mental illness on a family while holding the audience riveted. There are definitely some outstanding performances here, and Caissie Levy is quite mesmerising as Diana. She certainly merited her Olivier nomination as best actress for this performance. As daughter, Natalie, who comes to mirror her mother's behaviour, Eleanor Worthington-Cox is also brilliantly believable, and Jamie Parker as the supportive husband is pitch perfect. The score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey does an extraordinary job of capturing the urgency and poignancy of all the characters' situations. The song "It's Gonna Be Good" aches with hope, and Jack Wolfe's rendition of "I'm Alive" is positively haunting. Chloe Lamford's set makes terrific use of the fairly limited space, and Tony Gayle's sound design stands out. There is definitely some humour in this piece, but it is all pretty dark and the conclusion of the evening with the song, "Light," certainly seems more aspirational than realistic. This is not an easy night in the theatre, but it is a brilliantly rewarding one.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner

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