Friday December 15th 2017

“Next To Normal”

next-to-normalOur regional theaters, such as Marriott Lincolnshire, Steppenwolf,Victory Gardens,The Goodman, and Drury Lane Oakbrook just keep surprising theater audiences with the productions they take on to their smaller stages.  I continue to say that we are THE theater town and our ability to do some of the large Broadway shows in our regional theaters, often better than the original is why I feel the way I do. Drury Lane in Oakbrook is presenting the Regional Premiere of the Tony Award winning musical ” Next To Normal” in a production that is far superior to the road show that played here earlier. “Next To Normal”  with a book by Brian Yorkey ( who also wrote the lyrics) and music by Tom Kitt might be considered a “rock opera” instead of a musical in that there are no large production numbers and the music is there to move the story along.

The story! “Next To Normal” is the story of a “normal” suburban household and the secrets that this family has. For some the start of the play might be a bit confusing as we are introduced to our somewhat “dysfunctional” family , Diana ( a strong and wonderful interpretation by Susie McMonagle), her husband  Dan ( an amazing, career breakout role for Rod Thomas), their daughter Natalie (  the adorable Callie Johnson) and their son,Gabe  ( newcomer Josh Tolle, who I am sure we will be seeing more of). As we will learn during the progression of the story, Gabe is a mysterious being. Gets a little tricky, but the story is about tragedy and what a family must endure to get through the ordeal. I don’t want to divulge any more as you need to see the story unfold before your own eyes. I promise you, it will make sense.In  this strong look at how a family copes with the events of the past, and leans towards a new future, we see that there are some answers.

Diana, over the years has tried every drug mentionible ( and there is a song that goes through which pills to take with what responses) and then she goes through Electric Shock Colte Julian plays the two doctors she visits with ( another newcomer- Drury Lane keeps finding the talent, or do they seek out Drury Lane?).- Natalie, a sort of “lost soul” finds friendship and perhaps even love from a school chum, Henry ( deftly handled by Skyler Adams) and also partakes of the “drug scene”, experimenting as she tries to find herself. What we find in this story is that Natalie is somewhat a lost soul as Diana is still involved with Gabe’s loss. There are many skeltons in the closets of this suburban household and the quest of this family to find normalcy- in one of the scenes between mother and daughter, natalie says why not be “Next to Normal” – that is better than what they have been livng.Susie McMonaglect sound ( Ray Nardelli) this is a solid work that keeps you glued to the story for two hours and twenty minutes. There is some choreography and what is called musical staging by Tammy Mader ( which due to the story is very slight, but very meaningful) and the costumes (Sally Dolembo) and props ( Nick Heggestad) are the icing on the cake. When I saw that Drury Lane was going to offer this play a spart of their season, I was concerned as to how they would pull this off and knowing that they have a huge suburban subscription base, would this be a fitting show? Well, they have not only pulled it off, they have surpassed my expectaqtions and judging from the audience reaction, the subscribers loved what they saw. This might be the show of the year and I see quite a few potential Jeff Awards  at least nominations) from thsi solid cast and production crew.

“Next To Normal:, which should be on your “TO SEE” list, will continue at Drury Lane Oakbrook  through October 6th with performances as follows:


Wednesday 1:30 PM $35.00 $50.00 11:30 AM
Thursday 1:30 PM $35.00 $50.00 11:30 AM
Thursday 8:00 PM $45.00 $65.00 6:00 PM
Friday 8:00 PM $49.00 $70.00 6:00 PM
Saturday 5:00 PM $49.00 $70.00
3:30 PM Pre-Show
8:00 PM Post-Show
Saturday 8:30 PM $49.00 $70.00 6:00 PM
Sunday 2:00 PM $49.00 $74.00
12:00 PM Brunch
4:00 PM Dinner
Sunday 6:00 PM $45.00 $65.00 4:00 PM

Susie McMonagle, Rod Thomas




Bring several tissues as this will bring a tear to your eye. Recommended for mature audiences


Tickets range from $35-$49 and lunch and dinner packages from $50-$74. There is plenty of free parking at Drury Lane Oakbrook, just north of the Oakbrook Center- to make your reservations ( and I would not hesitate for this one) call the box office at 630-530-0111 or online, visit

To see what others are saying, visit, go to Review Round-up and click at “next To Normal”

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