There Will Be Light
“They’re the perfect loving family so adoring, and I love them every day of every week. So my son’s a little shit, my husband’s boring, and my daughter though a genius in a freak. Still I help them love each other; father, mother, sister, brother, cheek to cheek.” These are the opening lines to the musical Next To Normal. This production’s book and lyrics are by Brian Yorkley. The music is by Tom Kitt. Next To Normal tells the story of Diane, a bipolar mother and her and her family’s struggles with everyday life. Her husband Dan has to help her drive and get through each day of therapy with the help of Doctor Madden. Her daughter Natalie is sixteen, trying to make it though day by day with her boyfriend Henry, the stoner. She is trying to get into Yale early for the piano. Diane’s son Gabriel is involved in all sorts of school things. However, he never is in the room with his sister or father, and seems to be giving Diane all sorts of wrong advice.
I saw this production while it was on Broadway a couple years ago. However, I saw it again at The 4th Wall Theatre at the Westminister Arts Center in Bloomfield very recently. The cast was made up of Nancy Feldman as Diana Goodman, Gregory Allen as Dan Goodman, David Maglione as Gabriel Goodman, Kelly Karcher as Natalie Goodman, Miles Jackson as Henry, and John Wilkening as Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden. Each actor did an absolutely superb job. This is such an emotionally heavy show. They played it just the right way and had me on the edge of my seat, even though I knew what happened. They were wonderful; I felt as if these actors really were their characters. Every time you see a production of a show you have seen before you catch different things, and maybe see things from a different perspective. I definitely had this happen with this performance in comparison to it on Broadway.
This show is about Diane, a mother who has a bipolar disorder. (Spoilers!) She believes that her son who died as an infant is still living with her, her husband, and her daughter. Natalie, sixteen, can see that something is wrong and her father Dan takes Diane to therapy to try to help. After going through many drugs to finally find the right prescription, Diane stops taking them under the guide of her dead son, Gabriel. She then attempts suicide with the help of Gabe. After this her therapist suggests electroshock therapy. After some debate she goes through with it and doesn’t remember her son Gabriel. However, she doesn’t remember anything after the night she met her husband for the first time. After she regains her memory she still feels as if she is missing something. When she finds out about Gabe she decides it’s time for her to move out and try to come to terms with things on her own. The musical ends with a song titled Light which talks about hope for a brighter future and how they are able to overcome this obstacle together as a family.
The musicality of the show is incredible. There are a lot of deliciously crunchy dissonant chords that just chill you to the bone. The overall tone of this musical is dissonant and wonderful. There are a lot of interesting keys, both major and minor. The music jumps around from being in a comfortable four, to three four, six eight, cut time, and other mixed meters. It gives the musical a completely different feel depending on the music. You can feel the uneasiness, tension, hurriedness, sadness, and loss in every single note.
The performance was wonderful. The actors were working off books and they had the entire thing memorized, blocked, and choreographed. The venue was a small little theatre. It was very intimate and felt as if you were really looking into their home and watching what was going on in their lives. The acoustics were great, and the sound system that they were using was actually working and not glitching at all. There was no repertoire from the American Popular Songbook, only what was written by Brian Yorkley and Tom Kitt.