BoHo Theatre Stages A Fearless NEXT TO NORMAL

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Highly Recommended

Reviewed by: Stacey L. Crawley

NEXT TO NORMAL
Book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey
Music by Tom Kitt
Directed by Linda Fortunato
Music direction by Ellen K. Morris
 Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm 
Performing at Theater Wit, 1229 W Belmont Ave, Chicago through Oct. 9

Outstanding powerhouse voices layered with feeling and bursting with emotion, Brian Yorkey’s musical Next to Normal takes you on a wild ride through pharmaceutical town. Never before have I been so entertained and bemused by antidepressants and electroshock therapy. The snappy tunes and serious subject matter blend together seamlessly. I found myself laughing while simultaneously needing several tissues to wipe away the stream of tears that had developed from seeing such despair.

Diana (Colette Todd), in her lost bipolar state, suffers from delusions which began 18 years prior, the result of after a tragic family event.  Her supporting husband Dan (Donterrio Johnson) stands by her through every episode, all too aware of what the wrong treatment could produce and desperate to move on from their unimaginable loss. Left to fend for herself emotionally is her daughter Natalie (Ciera Dawn) who falls in love with Henry (Bradley Atkinson) and soon starts raiding her mom’s medicine cabinet, sending her down a rabbit hole of her own.

With numbers like “Who’s Crazy/My Psychopharmacologist and I,” an inspired take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ”My Favorite Things,” you can’t help but tap your foot along with glee to the drug-fueled delight Doctor Madden/Doctor Fine (Peter Robel) serves up.

The show keeps an excellent pace and each scene is filled with heart, which is what makes a musical meaningful. The simple, geometric set designed by Sarah Ross was the perfect backdrop for this all singing, all despair performance about marriage, life, parenting and mental illness. It’s an unpredictable tale with themes we can all relate to.

Our world today seems to be a pill-popping bonanza where people are hell bent on getting it right no matter what the cocktail involves. And just like in life, in the end it becomes all about the drugs rather than helping the patient sift through the past to find and deal with the root cause of the issue. Everyone—doctors, patients, and family members —seem to be into some kind of drug that will bring them ‘next to normal’. It’s a provocative and fearless show, with strong performances throughout. I highly recommend this modern musical, a concoction of drama, laughter, denial, and lots and lots of drugs.

Playing though October 9, 2016 at Theater Wit in Chicago

For tickets visit: http://www.bohotheatre.com/shows/nexttonormal.php

CAST: Colette Todd as Diana, with Donterrio Johnson as Dan, Peter Robel as Dr. Madden, Gilbert Domally as Gabe, Ciera Dawn as Natalie, Bradley Atkinson as Henry, and Kyrie Anderson as Diana (understudy).

PRODUCTION TEAM: Produced by Meg Love Scenic Design by Sarah Ross, Lighting Design by G. Max Maxin IV, Costume Design by Rachel Lambert, Sound Design by Joe Palermo, Properties Design by Natasza Naczas, Production Managed by Lindsay Brown, Stage Managed by Dalton Long.