As soon as I heard a show like Next to Normal existed, I knew I had to see it eventually. But of course, I would only be able to see it if it came to Toronto. Lucky for me, they put together a touring cast and one of the stops would in fact be a Toronto theatre. Anticipating my eventual attendance at this show, I refused to listen to any of the cast recording. I knew a couple of songs already and a main plot point, but I didn’t want to know anything else. I think knowing nothing going in made the show that much more emotional for me.
For those who aren’t like me and do need some sort of summary, Next to Normal tells the story of the Goodman family. Within the first number, we learn the dynamics of this family: Gabe is the less-than-perfect son who Diana, the less-than-stable mother looks to as though he is the perfect child, Natalie is the daughter that struggles for perfection just to be noticed, and Dan is the father and husband who uses all of his energy to hold them all together. Diana has to go to multiple psychiatrists to keep herself from going over the edge and Natalie, who has already been long pushed over this edge, seeks companionship in her friend, Henry. Despite how hard this family tries to be normal, maybe something next to normal will have to be enough.
I have never seen a musical quite like Next to Normal before. The characters seemed to real and easy to relate to – possibly just for me, or possibly for everyone else, depending on your own family life and the secrets kept within it. The emotions that the music and writing is able to evoke is absolutely unbelievable. Simply with the use of words and music, Next to Normal had me crying at the slightest thing, although in this musical, the plot points that will have you crying aren’t exactly “the slightest things”. It was refreshing to see a musical that used so much symbolism and metaphorical language to progress the story.
Next to Normal is easily my favourite musical of all time, and if you ever get a chance to see it, take that chance. Any amount of money you spend on a ticket will be worth it.