Photo – Tim Allan
What comes to mind when you think of music theatre? Maybe a postulant gallivanting through the glorious Austrian hillside or perhaps an umbrella wielding trio singing in the rain?
Next to Normal possesses neither characteristic, completely redefining the archetypal Broadway musical in terms of narrative and musical score.
The Factory and Six Foot Something Productions work in collaboration to produce the South Australian premiere of Next to Normal, which follows the plight of Diana Goodman who is haunted by her past and by the worsening symptoms of bipolar disorder. Her family join her as she tries to overcome the all-consuming illness and attempts to regain a sense of normality. Director David Lampard's most recent works have had a distinct trademark of excellence, and Next to Normal is certainly no exception. He has assembled a fine cast and crew who show commitment to his vision- a fresh non-replica interpretation.
Lampard's work can be seen most tangibly in his additional role as designer, with the striking and ingenious set design. The small cast of six is a powerhouse of talent, each actor exhibiting spectacular vocals coupled with great acting flair. It is Rosanne Hosking as Diana who leads the cast to perfection. Her powerful performance is multifaceted; full of grit, sensitivity and torment. Emma Bargery's Natalie is as equally stunning, with a beautiful voice and convincing performance.
Next to Normal defiantly departs from the typical music theatre narrative, candidly exploring mental illness, suicide, drug addiction and the perception of normality. The cast certainly handle these concepts with zest; but it is David Lampard's commendable honesty of his own experience with depression (discussed in the program notes) that contributes to the show's credibility and believability. Peter John's small orchestra is both delicate and powerful. It flawlessly delivers the rock score, and, despite its awkward position towards the back of the stage, John's maintains a steady direction.
Particular mention must be made of Matthew Curtis' sound design. Despite some minor balancing issues, Curtis achieves the best sound quality that the State Opera Studio has heard yet. While the opening scenes were perhaps too dimly lit, Daniel Barber's lighting design is as similarly impressive.
Next to Normal certainly won't leave you with the romantic gratification that you would receive from a more traditional musical, but it is certain that this is an exceptional, genre defining piece of music theatre.
Six Foot Something Productions and The Factory
Next to Normal
music by Tom Kitt | book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Director David Lampard
Venue: State Opera Studio
Dates: May 10 – 26, 2012
Bookings: BASS on 131 246 | www.bass.net.au