Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning Broadway production “Next to Normal” has taken its show on the road and Zap2it had the distinct privilege of attending the national tour’s opening night (Sunday, Nov. 28) at Downtown Los Angeles’ Ahmanson Theater.
]]>Pierce Brosnan (seated directly in row in front of us), “Glee’s” Teenage Dream Darren Criss and Jenna Ushkowitz, Seth Cohen — er — Adam Brody (“The OC”), adorable Amanda Seyfried of “Mean Girls” fame (yes, and “Dear John”, “Mamma Mia” etc. etc., but she’ll always affectionately be Karen with the “fifth sense” to us), Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sarah Hyland of “Modern Family,” Greg Berlanti (creator of “Brothers & Sisters”), Camryn Manheim (“The Practice”), Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, Chad Lowe, Peter MacNicol (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ally McBeal”) and “Next to Normal’s” Tom Kitt (music), Brian Yorkey (book and lyrics) and Michael Greif (director). “Next to Normal” is a musical dramedy centered around the complicated relationships between a bipolar woman named Diana, played to pitch-perfection by Broadway’s incomparable Alice Ripley, and her family. Ripley’s husband in the play is portrayed by Asa Somers, her daughter by Emma Hunton and last but certainly not least her son is played by rising star Curt Hansen. Did we mention rising star? The rest of the “Next to Normal” ensemble is rounded out by Jeremy Kushnier, playing Diana’s “good” Doc Madden a.k.a her “psychopharmacologist” and Hunton’s boyfriend Preston Sadlier. Saying we’re not a theater buff would be an understatement. Though it’s mostly due to an ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) diagnosis which makes it virtually impossible to sit in a theater longer than the usual 90-minute running time of a rom-com. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to spot a compelling and engaging story when it’s in front of one’s face. And purely from an audience perspective and well, life’s all-around taste maker viewpoint, we can happily sum up “Next to Normal” in a word: “Uh-mazing!” But don’t take take it from this TV and pop culture junkie, lets leave it to the well-equipped theater critics around the interwebs to echo my sentiments. Cue the kudos and SAT Prep Verbal tutorial from some of the “Next to Normal” reviews around the blogosphere:
“‘Next to Normal’ arrives with its two greatest assets intact. Michael Greif’s boldly inventive physical staging and Alice Ripley’s raw Tony-winning, truly gutsy tour de force performance. A rare recent example of Broadway integrity. The artistry and ambition are uplifting…Like all good musicals it breaks your heart without crushing your hope. — Los Angeles Times “There’s no denying the ferocity and emotional precision of the cast. Alice Ripley is a ‘force of nature.’ ‘Next to Normal’ shouldn’t fail to absorb anyone interested in what’s happening in American musical theatre and, not incidentally, in American families.” — Variety “That rarirty of rarities: A Broadway show that’s as good as its hype. Richly wise and searing musical about madness and sorrow, rage and forgiveness. Director Michael Greif’s staging is fierce and dynamic…the production crackles with energy and intensity.” — LA Weekly
Following the show, Zap2it was invited to attend the after-party for “Next to Normal’s” cast and crew at Border Grill, who we’d like to give a shout out for the extra tasty mojitos, sangria and margaritas. (Not necessarily in order of consumption, but each was really good to the very last drop). Oh, and also some props for the delicious Mexican food fare which looked like it was enjoyed by all. We