Wednesday September 17th 2014

“next to normal”

Highly Recommended-Must See   If you have not heard about the new production at the Bank of America Theatre,”next to normal” an original musical and you love great theater, you might want to change your schedule to fit this in as it is only in town until May 8th. Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and three Tony Awards ( including Best Actress for Alice Ripley, who reprises her award winning performance on this tour), the book  and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and the gritty rock style music by Tom Kitt tells us a modern day story of a family that has some pressure over some of the history in their lives. This is a stunningly beautiful musical that deals with some very emotional situations. The set by Mark Wendland is a metal three story series of boxes, stairs leading up and down from different angles with sliding pieces that create rooms or a house or even a balcony. On these levels are the musicians who make this music truly come alive and despite it being “rock” styled, the musicians never drown out the actors- this script and  its lyrics are far to important to the conveyance of the story being told.

The original direction by Michael Greif and the musical staging by Sergio Trujillo has been kept intact and joining Ms Ripley in his cast are Asa Sommers as her husband Dan ( also a veteran of this show on Broadway), Emma Hunton as their daughter Natalie ( who was a swing in New York playing this role), Jeremy Kushner in the roles of the doctors, Preston Sadler as Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend and the amazing and powerful Curt Hansen as Gabe. The first song, opening this two and a half hour work of art is entitled “Just Another Day” and it certainly sets the tone for what is an amazing theatrical experience- one that you will talk about and remember for a long time.

I certainly would not want to ruin anything for you in the way of giving away the story, but what this production deals with is family and how they learn to deal with the fate that has been dealt to them. Nothing is perfect in life and there are many things that transpire in each of our lives for which we have some guilt feelings. “I could have done this better” or “I should have changed this” or I could have been someone” ( a quote from “Working”). This couple has some of this guilt and in each it is expressed differently. While Diana ( Ms. Ripley is outstanding in this highly emotional role) and Dan love each other, there is something that is causing their lives to be as if they were alone and the root of the problem has an effect on their relationship with Natalie as well. While I cannot divulge the information in fear of ruining your experience, I will tell you that Gabe is very involved and Mr. Hansen handles this role as if it was written for him. In fact this entire cast is sensational. Their voices, their movement and their characters. The one word that truly describes what you will see in the production is “WOW!!!!!”

This is a five tissue production at least. Yes, it has many funny moments and many tender moments as well as some very sad ones ( that is where the tissues come out)- we as an audience are allowed to express all of our feelings in this one. We laugh and cry and of great importance, we feel! We feel through the marvelous music, the Next To Normal band, under the leadership of Bryan Perri- Rick Bertone,Craig Magnano,Michale Pearce and Shannon Ford along with their two local musicians, Linda Oper on violin and Jill Kaeding on Cello- their sounds are a delight to our senses. In fact, this entire production allows us to use our senses as they should be used. Our hearing, our vision and most important our feelings, for each of the characters and how they react to each of the ups and downs that life puts before us. This is a “do not miss”! the only problem with that is that it is only here through  Sunday May 8th with performances:

Tuesday,Wednesday,Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 p.m.( No sunday evening on May 8th) Friday and Saturday eveinings at 8 p.m., Wednesday,Saturday and Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

Tickets range from $32-$95 and are worth every cent. You can purchase your by visiting any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, visiting any of the Ticketmaster outlets, by phone at the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line 800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

The Bank Of America Theatre is located at  18 West Monroe ( between State Street and Dearborn) .      

Easy to get to by public transportation

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