Cal Rep shines with "Next to Normal"

BY: VIVIAN GATICA

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California Repertory Company premiered Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s musical “Next to Normal” under the direction of Joanne Gordon at the Royal Theater aboard the Queen Mary on April 18, and it was perfection.

“Next to Normal” documents the story of  a bipolar Diana (Karole Foreman) and her journey through various treatments for her mental illness. The memory of her deceased son Gabe(Alexander Pimentel) lingers in her delusional state, affecting her relationships with her husband Dan (Jeff Paul) and daughter Natalie (Maddie Larson).

Dan tries to keep his family from falling apart because of his wife’s mental state, but despite the efforts of  Diana’s psychiatrist Dr. Madden (Roberto Alcaraz), nothing is working. Dan is losing his patience and the only thing keeping Maddie sane is her boyfriend Henry (Michael Barnum).

The acting ensemble in this play was amazing. Foreman excels at capturing the emotions of her character at each stage of her treatments through her acting and singing. The whole cast works very well together, their voices blend perfectly, and they build off of each other’s energy, giving chills down the audiences’ spine with each scene and song.

Although I had my reservations about the scenery, it grew on me throughout the play. It made sense within the context of the play and limited space, and was very creative in symbolically capturing Diana’s complex mind. Everything else from the lighting and sound to the costumes and hair and makeup, just added to the play’s great execution.

Gordon’s direction, along with Jarod Sheahan’s musical supervision, was obviously strong as the play really came to life on stage—even with the plays strong and complex subject matter.

The music, performances, and technical work of this play  were outstanding. Of all the plays produced through CSULB’s theatre arts department this year, this was by far the best and I highly recommend it.

Cal Rep performances of “Next to Normal” will continue on through May 10. Tickets are available at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/dept/115.