By Joan Alperin Schwartz
I absolutely love the cast album of ‘Next To Normal’. The music is on my I-Pod and I’ve played it so many times, that I know every song by heart. Plus I had the pleasure of seeing this Tony Award/Pulitzer Prize winning show on Broadway.
So, I must admit, driving to the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts, which happens to be really far from my house in Topanga Canyon, I was more than a little worried…What if this regional production doesn’t hold up to the original?
Well, I am very happy to report, that this groundbreaking rock musical about mental illness, on the LaMirada stage, is every bit as wonderful as the New York version.
The story centers around a bi-polar housewife/mother named Diana (the wonderful Bets Malone) If being bi-polar isn’t bad enough, Diana also suffers from delusions as well as hallucinations.
When the musical opens, Diana is standing in her kitchen, singing ‘It’s Just Another Day’ as she prepares breakfast for her daughter, Natalie (Tessa Grady) and her loving husband, Dan (Robert J. Townsend).
As she continues to sing, Diana goes from being super energetic to being super agitated. By the time the last note is sung, our housewife is not only making sandwiches on the floor, but she’s baked a birthday cake and it isn’t anyone’s birthday.
Diana’s tried over the years, with the help of many, many drugs, to be normal, but unfortunately, the meds are no longer working. To make matters worse, they’ve left her feeling…numb. In one of the show’s most beautiful numbers, ‘I Miss the Mountains’, Diana sings about her longing to feel something…
‘Next To Normal’ is an emotionally powerful musical, about a family trying to cope with mental illness, and at the same time, take care of themselves and each other, which is no easy task.
But as heart wrenching as Diana’s condition is, ‘Next to Normal’ is never a downer…In fact, you leave the theatre feeling very hopeful for Diana and her family.
The cast, including Eddie Egan, as Diana’s son, Gabe, Alex Mendoza (Natalie’s love interest, Henry) and Keith A. Bearden (Dr. Madden) are excellent and definitely deserved the standing ovation they received at the end of the show.
This is a must-see show for anyone who loves live theatre or just wants to be entertained.
‘Next To Normal’ directed by Nick DeGruccio, opened May 31, 2013 and runs through June 23, 2013.
The La Mirada Theatre For The Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd in LaMirada.
Performances: Wednesdays & Thursdays 7:30pm…Fridays, 8pm…Saturdays at 2pm and 8pm…Sundays at 2pm.
Tickets range from $20-$70 and can be purchased at…www.lamiradatheatre.com or by calling the Box Office – 562-944-9801 or 714-994-6310.
Student, Senior and group discounts are available.