Although mental illness is not a common topic in musicals, award-winning Broadway musical Next to Normal breaks away from the norm in a positive way. Next to Normal is a rock musical about an ordinary housewife, Diana, suffering from bipolar disorder and her attempts to alleviate the effects of her disease on her family. The difficult subject that can’t be dealt with in black-and white terms is beautifully expressed through the eloquent numbers, wellplanned stage set and dialogue. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of this two-hour performance.
The three-story house where Diana and her family live also functions as a reflection of her mental state. Diana largely spends her time on the first floor and her daughter, Natalie, on the second. These two floors are symmetrical, allowing the audience to effortlessly note the contrasting sentiments of mother and daughter. It’s amazing to see the actors focus on their craft and keep the audience on the edge of their seats at all moments. Most importantly, the musical numbers possess the ability to transmit joy, sadness and empathy to the audience. The rock scores aptly express the sentiments shared or misunderstood between Diana and her family. Furthermore, the plot doesn’t follow a cliché rise and fall followed by a happy ending, but instead reflects upon the unpredictable ups and downs of real life. All of these elements harmoniously arranged together make this musical hard to forget.