Monday, June 29, 2009

Next to Normal - Way beyond Normal

The acting, the music, the staging. If Billy Elliott didn't have such a feel good story, this show would and should have swept the Tony awards.

Breath-taking and broad at some points, claustrophobic and critical at others, Next to Normal blew me away. I somewhat expected a Rent-redux musical, but this was so much more. The story could easily have been an oh-too-predictable Oxygen or Lifetime movie of the week. Instead, we were gripped in the ever-surprising twists of this roller-coaster ride.

And to top it all off, the music, singing and acting were all top notch.

It's a bleak story, that doesn't seem so tough at the beginning. But stories about schizophrenia work best when you slowly realize that normal isn't really normal.

And, yes, this is a play that had me crying during the final few minutes. Sigh.

In some ways, the central theme of the book strikes me to carry well into non-psychotic areas as well. If "normal" cannot be achieved, then life can actually progress with love and honesty if you are willing to accept "next to normal". It's a tough lesson to learn for this family, and it certainly seems like a difficult one for American society in general to accept. I for one would love to see America look at our potpourri of peoples and issues and politics and accept that the 1950's concepts of normal just can't work anymore. Instead we need to move on in full honesty of our strengths and weaknesses, so that an almost normal life can be acceptable.

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