Saturday, 7 May 2011

Next to Normal, MTC, May 6, 2011

Review: Next to Normal, MTC
  • Kate Herbert
  • From: Herald Sun
  • May 06, 2011 10:39AM

Next to Normal, Melbourne Theatre Company, Arts Centre Playhouse, until June 4, 2011

NEXT To Normal is not your normal musical.
Its subject matter is distressing, its characters are dysfunctional and the ending is not necessarily happy. But this Tony-award winning show, while exhausting, is exhilarating. A sensational show that breaks plenty of rules.

Next To Normal is about Diana (Kate Kendall), a suburban mother with manic-depression and delusions, and the impact her illness has on husband Dan (Matt Hetherington) and daughter Natalie (Christy Sullivan).

Tom Kitt's songs about grief and drug treatment are wrenching, but often funny and uplifting, while Brian Yorkey's book tells Diana's grim story without lapsing into sentimentalism.

Director Dean Bryant sets a cracking pace for this Melbourne Theatre Company production, while musical director Mathew Frank leads the six-piece, on-stage band.

The cast of six is consistently strong, creating credible characters, thrilling harmonies and moving relationships. Their impeccable articulation makes the lyrics and the story supremely clear.

Kendall plays Diana with great sensitivity and grace, investing the role with dignity and singing with great expressiveness, though her voice lacks some dynamic range and vibrato.
Hetherington is exceptional as Diana's beleaguered husband with his rich, warm, thrilling voice.

Sullivan, Bert LaBonte, Benjamin Hoetjes and Gareth Keegan all provide fine voices and strong characterisations.

You may feel overwhelmed if you're close to someone with a mental illness, but this is a challenging and unusual musical.

Star rating: * * * *

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