Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Next To Normal - See it.

Hey all....before you even begin reading this, remember that I'm NOT a theatre critic by profession, nor do I claim to be.  However, I had the privilege of seeing an outstanding production recently and thought it deserved more than just a 'Hey, you should really see this!!!' mention on my blog - so I wrote a review of sorts.  That being's what I wrote.

I hope you're all well....and if you're in the Boston area....seriously, you should really see this!! :-)

My first exposure to 'Next To Normal' was when I bought the CD and listened to it pretty much non-stop until I was getting sick of listening to it. That’s generally the way things go for me when I get a new recording, especially if it’s one that I enjoy.

One of Jim’s college friends (Jessica Phillips) was part of the show from the early ‘workshop days’, and ended up staying with the show throughout most of its Broadway run, covering Alice Ripley who played the role of the mother, Diana. There were a few attempts on our part to get to New York in order to see the show when Jessica went on, but unfortunately we never got there to see it.

The last time that I was in New York City (in the fall of 2009 – how sad is THAT?!?!) I saw several shows, but decided against seeing ‘Next To Normal’ at that time. I mean, I was very interested in seeing it, but the only tickets they had available were obstructed view and WAY too expensive – no thanks.

We were however, finally able to see the show (with the original Broadway cast) through another way, that I will not explain any further as it may land me in the hoosegow (Google it) if I do.  That being said, it was a thrill to finally see the show, especially with the original cast, and for FREE!!! Seeing it helped to answer lots of questions that I had based on the fact that all I’d done was listen to the show.

Why all this information? I’ll tell you why….

After MUCH anticipation, I was finally able to see the Boston premiere of ‘Next To Normal’ on Sunday afternoon, and boy am I glad I did. At this point it’s been about 3 days since I saw it, and it’s still on my mind. I don’t want to go into too much detail regarding the plot, because I think it’s more powerful if you go into the show without knowing what’s going to happen and let the show speak for itself. Let’s just say that it’s the story about a family who is dealing with mental illness and the situations that they’re faced with as a result.

Kudos to Paul Daigneault (Director) for assembling an amazing cast who are all nearly perfect in each of their roles. As is typical with one of Paul’s productions, his vision is so clear and the transitions from scene to scene are so well-executed that you remain completely engaged in the story and are free to go along for the ‘ride’ that the characters are going on.

Sarah Drake, who plays Natalie (the daughter of Dan and Diana), embodies the role of the ‘tortured teen’ perfectly. She is completely believable throughout the story, so much fun to watch, and she sings the difficult role effortlessly…..loved her. Michael Levesque plays Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend, and does so with great success. He’s got a great voice, which is perfectly suited for the role, and while he’s pursuing Natalie throughout the show, you can’t help but root for him to win her over. Chris Caron, in dual roles as Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden manages to make you see things from his point of view as he struggles with how to deal with his difficult patient and the rest of her family. Who would have ever thought that you’d be feeling the stress/sadness/anxiety that the doctor was going through when dealing with a situation like this?! I didn’t think I would, but to be honest, there were times when I really saw things from his point of view and completely understood what he must have been going through. Michael Tacconi plays the role of Gabe, who is Diana and Dan’s son. He’s got a fantastic voice and there are certain moments that he had throughout the show that had me reaching for a Kleenex.

The role of Dan is expertly played by Christopher Chew. Chris has been away from the Boston theatre ‘scene’ for FAR too long, so it was an extra special treat seeing him back on stage again. His portrayal of Dan was out of this world. He sang the role as if it were written specifically for him (I’m not a huge fan of J. Robert Spencer on the cast recording) and was equally as great in the acting department. Kerry A. Dowling, who is no stranger to SpeakEasy stage has reached new heights in the role of Diana. From the very start of the show she engages the audience and makes them want to hear her story. She’ll make you laugh, she’ll make you cry and she’ll make you forget that you’re sitting in a theatre in the middle of the South End. The role of Diana is extremely difficult to sing, and she handles the score with ease. Whether she’s blowing the roof off the place, or settling in for a quiet moment, you can’t help but be drawn in to her every word. Hers is a performance not to be missed.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the expert musical direction of Nicholas James Connell. He not only made this extremely talented cast sound amazing, but assembled the off-stage orchestra that accompanied the ensemble so expertly throughout the evening. There were several moments where the ensemble sound (of the cast) was so good - whether it was a perfectly placed note or a ringing chord, that really made me take a moment and think “Wow….nice job Mr. Musical Director….that sounded GREAT.”

Finally, I have to mention the extremely talented design team. The versatile and well used (again, thanks to Paul D.) set design of Eric Levenson, which was enhanced by the extremely creative (and at often times humorous) projection work of Seaghan McKay and the lighting design of Jeff Adelberg. Of course, without a costume designer, we’d be looking at God only knows what on stage, so I have to mention Tyler Kinney who designed the costumes, which were well done and suited each character perfectly.

All in all, this was a show that I would highly recommend to everyone. In the past, when I when I’ve listened to the recording or when I saw the show, it really felt like the focus was really on Diana and what she was going through. In SpeakEasy’s production of ‘Next To Normal’, Paul Daigneault and the cast succeed in allowing you to see the show from the perspective of each of the characters and how they’re being affected, which makes for a much more interesting, rewarding, and enjoyable experience.

Go HERE now to get your tickets…….

Here are some pictures from the production: 

All photos were taken by Craig Bailey/Perspective Photo

From left: Sarah Drake, Christopher Chew, Kerry A. Dowling

From left: Michael Tacconni, Kerry A. Dowling, Christopher Chew

Kerry A. Dowling

From left: Chris Caron, Kerry A. Dowling

From left: Sarah Drake, Michael Levesque

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Maaaahhhhch!!!!

I am simply EMBARRASSED at my lack of blogging. 
Horrified, I tell you.

Work has been so busy that I just don't have the free time I used to. 
Sad, sad, sad.

The good news is, that you haven't been missing out on all the amazing and exciting things I've been doing since I last wrote, because there hasn't been much going on.  :-)

Zachary has been sick for the past few weeks, which has pretty much kept Jim and I housebound.  Well, we manage to get out now and then - but the three of us haven't exactly been painting the town red lately.
I can't even say that it's entirely because of Z not feeling well.  I think it's this time of year.  Granted, we've have an extremely mild winter, but even so, we've been happier staying home and hanging out, rather than going out and about.

Jim and Barrie actually had a fun little night out last Saturday night.  Since Jim is home all day long with Zachary, I thought it would be nice for him to get out of the house and not have to worry about where Zachary was or what he was doing.  He and Barrie went out to dinner, saw a show, and then even went out afterwards to celebrate a friend's birthday!  They had a great time and I think it was a nice 'escape' for him.

Jim's parents returned on Tuesday from their month long visit to Florida, so we had his entire family over for dinner that night, which was quite fun.  His parents rented a place in the same complex where my parents live all winter, so the four of them had a GREAT time together.  Thankfully, they all get along and have lots in common....and it's more than just golf and wine.  :-)

Speaking of my dad....he started back to work at the brand, spankin' new Jet Blue Park in Ft. Myers and according to him, it's a BEAUTIFUL place.  Hopefully we'll get down there at some point soon to visit.

And speaking of the Red Sox, it's with great sadness that I bring up the retirement of my all-time favorite - Jason Varitek.  It's just not going to be the same without him behind the plate.  I'm hoping that he continues his affiliation with the Red Sox in some capacity, which I've heard is his intention. We shall see.
Either way, I'll certainly miss his presence - but just as it is with most things: this too, shall pass!!
I wonder how valuable that autographed bat of his will be now????  ;-)

I hope you all have a great weekend and all is well in your parts of the world.