The Hippodrome Theatre is kicking off the new year with the powerful musical drama “Next to Normal.” The Pulitzer Prize winning musical was only the eigth musical to win the prize for drama citing the show as “a powerful rock musical that grapples with mental illness in a suburban family and expands the scope of subject matter for musicals.” From the moment you enter the theatre you realize that something special is going to happen. Mihai Ciupe, scenic designer has created an environment filled with tension and suspension creating a wonderful backdrop for the story we are about to witness. Robert P. Robbins’ lighting design enhances the emotional impact using throbbing moving lights throughout the musical. Hipp Artistic Director Stephanie Lynge has assembled a wonderfully talented
cast with voices performing the soaring rock score with ease.
Terra C. MacLeod as Diana is mezmerizing as the suffering mother trying to keep herself and her family together on this emotional roller coaster ride. MacLeod’s dynamic portrayal takes us on her journey through the mental health system with both humor and desperation. David Patrick Ford as Dan the husband and father is powerful yet sympathetic as he plays his part to also keep the family together. Josslyn Shaw as Natalie the teen daughter shines as she tries to carve out her place in this family dynamic. Connor Neun plays and sings son Gabe with appropriate adolescent angst. Noah C. Yager is charming as Henry, Natalie’s would-be boyfriend. Rounding out the cast is Gregory Buckheit, effective as two doctors exemplifying the ups and downs of mental health treatment and focusing on whether or not it is an exact science.
“Next to Normal” is an important yet difficult musical that tugs on the heart strings of the audience. We get to empathize with these wonderful characters as each sing solos, duets, and group numbers that draw us into their highly volatile world. Ending on a hopeful note, “Next to Normal” is running now through February 25. Tickets can be purchased at TheHipp.org or by calling (352) 375-4477.
Kevin Marshall for “Gainesville Theatre Review”