The Goodmans are “a perfect loving family, so adoring”; four individuals who seem to lead very normal lives. “Everything is perfect, nothing's real”. Natalie dreams of moving far away after graduation but is crumbling under stress; Gabe comes home at three in the morning from who knows where; Dan is trying to keep his family together but he's worried sick about his wife; and Diana is all over the place, constantly in and out of doctor's appointments, dragging her family in a consuming spiral.

Brian Yorkey's Pulitzer-winning libretto and lyrics and Tony-winning Tom Kitt's score are still to this day some of the most daring pieces of writing for musical theatre. It almost feels like they set out to write an anti-musical; a rock-sung-through show dealing with bipolar disorder, grief, depression, drug abuse and family codependency.

This is probably why this show took over 10 years to transfer overseas. I'm glad it finally did. It's rare to see a show that raises awareness around mental health with such care and empathy.

Every actor on stage is superb, each delivering top-notch performances and working seamlessly and generously as a small tight-knit ensemble. Caissie Levy is an outstanding Diana. Her famous powerful vocals are in full display here, but they never outshine her acting talents (“I Miss the Mountains” almost stopped the show). She portrays a multifaceted woman who's hurt and frustrated but also wild, luminous, and fiercely fighting for survival. Jack Wolfe's enigmatic Gabe is one of the most electrifying performances I've seen on stage in the past year - his “I'm Alive” is rightfully one of the most celebrated highlights of this production.

Eleanor Worthington-Cox infuses Natalie with the perfect mix of angst, vulnerability, and boldness, mirroring intriguingly Diana's personality. It's heartbreaking to watch Jamie Parker's Dan trying to hold it all together, making conflicted tough decisions out fear and pain. Henry (Jack Ofrecio) charmingly offers a great comic
relief and heart. Trevor Dion Nichols succeeds in the tough job of giving stern Dr Madden/Dr Fine a compassionate and conscientious soul.

Micheal Longhurst flawlessly transfers his production to the Wyndham's Theatre. He seamlessly enhances the intimacy of his Donmar Warehouse version, making use of all that a larger West End stage can offer (new explosive video design by Tal Rosner, lighting by Lee Curran, sound by Tony Gayle) without compromising his grounded and detail-oriented direction of last summer.

Every technical department is excellent. Special mention to the incredible band and its musical director Nick Barstow (musical supervisor Nigel Lilley).

Next to Normal stayed with me long after its closing chords. It's bold and packs quite a punch. It invites you to keep reaching for the light even and especially in the face of obstacles and tragedies.
It's healing. It's cathartic.


Next To Normal is at Wyndham's Theatre until 21st September. Tickets: here.


Review: Francesco Pagnoncelli    Photo: Marc Brenner