The Spectrum Theater was filled with emotion last night as the cast of “Next to Normal,” presented by Actors’ Theatre and directed by Fred Sebulske, gave a heart wrenching opening performance.
“Next to Normal,” music by Tom Kitt and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, tells the story of a suburban family as they struggle to find an appropriate course of treatment for the mother and bipolar patient, Diana Goodman, played by Grand Award winner Kelly Carey, as her frequent hallucinations and episodes of manic depression affect the whole family’s sanity.
Everyone’s voices were powerful, and though the score consists of mostly solos, when the small cast sang together, they made a very tight ensemble, often making it hard to believe there were only six people singing.
Carey portrayed the character of Diana to a tee, effortlessly singing through the score with a powerful voice full of the emotion vital to successfully play the role of Diana.
Though she seemed a little young for the part, Carey’s spot-on acting made her convincing in the role.
Her counter and husband, Dan Goodman, played by Grand Award winner Larry Young, had a voice that matched well with Carey’s. And though he was a little less animated in the first act than expected, he portrayed well his role of a father desperately trying to have a normal family.
The portrayal of Natalie, played by Maggie Nye, was excellent. With lines and facial expressions that left me teary-eyed at some points and laughing at other points, the Grand Award winning actress’ performance was reminiscent of professional theater.
The chemistry between Nye and Duncan McCargar (Henry) was very pleasing; two exceptional actors playing well off each other. Everything about McCargar—his look and his voice—made him a good choice for the part.
Kyle Los (Gabe) also sang with a powerful voice, though there were a few minor mistakes with the lyrics. Jared Graybiel transitioned well through his roles as Dr. Madden Dr. Fine, though he used more of a nasal singing technique rather than a smooth tone that one might expect his characters to have.
A couple of the costume choices were questionable, particularly Dr. Fine’s bright tie and Gabe’s basic Levi jeans, not something a preppy, arrogant teen would wear.
Scott Patrick Bell and the rest of the instrumentalists, who could be seen behind the set, held it all together, following the actors’ leads and allowing them to take liberties with timing.
The set was unique, with a spiral staircase in the middle of the two-story house setup and empty picture frames covering the back.
“Next to Normal” plays at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday through Dec. 15, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Dec. 9 that will benefit the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
The cost is $24-$26 for adults, $20 for students and seniors, and there are $10 student rush tickets available one hour before curtain.
The musical lasts for about two and a half hours with one 15-minute intermission.