Next To Normal

Next to Normal isn't merely a musical—it's a profound journey through the human experience

Walking into the Donmar Warehouse for 'Next to Normal', my expectations were set sky-high. Chloe Lamford, the designer, has truly outdone herself. From the moment my eyes settled on the stage, I found myself immersed in the interior of a home, an architect's dream come to life. The meticulous attention to detail was awe-inspiring. Everything from the iconic Charles Eames lounge chair to the floating stairs, concealed cabinets, island sink, and even a Bauhaus canvas. The stage whispered the story of a beautiful home and the architect who lived there. As the play unfolded, these visual cues seamlessly aligned with the narrative, a testament to Lamford's artistry in conveying meaning through design. The costumes mirrored this level of detail, dropping hints about the plot for those perceptive enough to catch them.

The stairs themselves served as both entrances and exits for the cast, while also leading the way to the band's area, a clever integration that blurred the lines between performance and accompaniment. The band mostly remained visible, occasionally obscured by drawn blinds that cleverly transformed into projection screens. Among the many memorable moments, one stood out like a nostalgic dream. Tal Rosner, the video designer, created a 'lullaby light show,' evoking the soothing visuals of childhood music boxes. Gentle stars and moons gracefully pirouetted around the stage, filling it with a sense of wonder and tenderness.

Now, onto the play itself. It was an emotional maelstrom, a relentless barrage of emotions. By the final curtain call, there wasn't a dry eye in the house, even the cast were teary eyed for the final bows. The emotional impact of the poignant and triggering moments was heightened by their artistic staging, seamlessly woven into Tom Kitt's music and Brian Yorkey's lyrics.

Among the standout moments, the performance of 'Superboy and the Invisible Girl' by Eleanor Worthington-Cox in the role of Natalie and Jack Wolfe as Gabe were undeniable highlights. When Worthington-Cox graces the stage, there was a whimsical entrance that momentarily left me questioning her ability to match the calibre of her fellow performers. However, this was a masterstroke by Director Michael Longhurst, beautifully aligned with the play's opening. As the show progresses, Worthington-Cox's delivery evolved into a marvellously powerful performance that left a lasting impression.

Jamie Parker's portrayal of Dan and Cassie Levy's role were both examples of exceptional talent. It's challenging to delve into specifics without risking plot spoilers, but their performances filled the stage with raw emotion and vulnerability.

'Next to Normal' isn't merely a musical—it's a profound journey through the human experience. The synergy between design, music, lyrics, and performance casts a spell that's impossible to escape. From the moment I entered the theatre, my expectations were surpassed beyond measure, and I left with a heart full of emotions and a newfound admiration for the art that is theatre.

This show was reviewed on the 23rd August 2023.  Next To Normal runs at the Donmar Warehouse until the 7th October 2023.  Tickets here: NEXT TO NORMAL | Donmar Warehouse

Review written by Valentine Gale-Sides

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Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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