Next To Normal

This is one of the most emotionally powerful musicals I have seen for a long time. It is a show that deals with the complexities of mental illness and drug abuse. There may be triggering issues for some people, and certainly during the interval I could see some people noticeably moved and upset.

It’s one of those shows that requires a strong central presence in its leading lady, and Caissie Levy delivers that. Her ‘I Miss the Mountains’ was on another level. Her character watching daughter Natalie in the kitchen, is really powerful. Her performance is so raw and honest, laying before us the unravelling of the wife and mother, going through trauma and pain. She is mesmerising. Her early descent into mania and the unravelling of her Bipolar Disorder and its impact on the family dynamics, are brilliantly portrayed.

But her fellow cast members also shine. Jamie Parker’s performance as husband Dan, was heart-breaking, with palpable chemistry between husband and wife onstage. His love and longing for the young woman he married years ago shines through. His ‘I’ve Been’, where he’s calmly wiping up blood off the floor whilst speaking about his wife, is a heart-breaking moment.

Their son Gabe, is very strongly and passionately played by Jack Wolfe. Haunting and enchanting in equal measure, his portrayal contrasts with the edginess and complexity of sixteen year old Natalie, magnificently played by Eleanor Worthington-Cox. The casting of Diana and Natalie is exceptional – you utterly believe they are mother and daughter. Both women have a destructive streak, without giving anything away.

The supporting cast of Natalie’s boyfriend Henry, played by Jack Ofrecio and Trevor Dion Nicholas, playing Dr Fine and Dr Madden, are also extremely strong. This cast shines throughout with faultless vocals.

I didn’t see this production at the Donmar Warehouse, but this feels like it’s a very effective transfer into the West End. Wyndham's is small enough for the performances to be impactful and intimate.

The music, book and lyrics from Tom Kitt and Brian Yorker are inspired. Every single song, word and moment are dripping with subtext and emotions, taking us through a ‘normal’ family’s journey of tragedy, grief, depression and mental illness.

Chloe Lamford’s set is simple but effective. We see a basic family kitchen with stairs that lead to blinded windows opening to reveal the band.

This is such a strong production under Michael Longhurst’s direction.

This feels like it’s a very special production, which cleverly explores and challenges our perceptions about trauma and mental illness, as well as the medical approaches to this, alongside exploring family dynamics. It is acted and sung beautifully, and never strays into melodrama. It is quite simply unmissable.

This show was reviewed on the 25th June 2024 at the Wyndham's Theatre, London where it runs until the 21st September 2024.  Tickets available here: Ticket Info (

Review written by Ruth Hawkins


Photo credit: Marc Brenner

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