While i grew up with musicals, at a certain point after loving them to death, i started to hate them with a passion. Trying to reconcile this leads to the type of musical i write. It also means, especially now that i don’t live in New York and have to chance to see what’s playing just by walking by every day, i don’t keep up with what’s going on in the world of musical theater.
So it was quite interesting for me to discover Next To Normal, a psychologically dark and VERY interesting newer musical (technically a “rocksical”).
While the entire album stays to much in the high octane musical theater genre for my tastes and gets a little musically redundant, i give it the benefit of the doubt of that being more my problem than the show’s. I mean really, you can’t fault a musical theater piece for sounding… like a musical theater piece.
Because when you get over that fact, the show is REALLY kind of awesome and shockingly hard hitting. It’s about a mother with mental illness (bipolar disorder?) and the toll it takes on her suburban family.
In a way, the musicalness of it adds to the impact. Take that first track i just posted. You have this rocksical score with people singing brightly and yet it’s horribly twisted and broken.
While the show’s original modd had a lot more tongue in cheek irony, as the show developed the production staff made the excellent choice to cut out the cute wink winks and instead just be damned serious about the whole thing. Which in my opinion works amazingly. This is not f****** Cats. It actually stares you in the face and doesn’t blink.
The subject matter is.. well… NUTS to put in a musical. Especially without some comedy to lighten it (which is how they did it originally). But the sheer… daring of it is deserving of full kudos, and the fact is, they do pull it off fantastically. Like i said earlier, most of my issues with it are more my issues with the genre itself. What i LOVE is anything that pulls and pushes and stretches the genre, which is the very thing i long for, since deep down, i love musical theater in a sort of strange, bipolar kind of way.
This last clip is from the Tony Awards and i would just point out that the mother and father have a teenage son and daughter. Except they don’t actually have a son, as he died 16 years before. But the mother sees the son regardless and to her he is a very real part of the household.
(P.S.: I’m still alive. i made it out of the village and the mountains with my 3 year old and we are now sitting comfortably in Belgrade where we will be staying until after next weekend.)