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Theater Review: ‘Next to Normal’

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Jeremy Kushnier, Alice Ripley, and Asa Somers (SHN)

Jeremy Kushnier, Alice Ripley, and Asa Somers in the musical ‘Next to Normal’ (SHN)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Bipolar disorder, electric shock treatment, suicide, and grief… this may not sound like a fun evening at the theater, but Next to Normal is an engaging and touching musical that does it right.

The mother is bipolar, the father is barely holding the family together, the daughter is resentful, and the son is mysterious. This Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning musical about a dysfunctional family trying to survive each day is carried by a strong and engaging cast of characters.

Alice Ripley gives a powerful performance as Diana, the mother that makes the audience laugh and cry. It’s also worth noting that she won the 2009 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

The whole cast gives such an honest performance that you can really feel their emotions through each song. Asa Somers, who plays Dan the father, has beautiful character development that goes from a man trying to be strong enough to hold his family together to a broken, grieving father. Curt Hansen, who plays the son Gabe, lures you in with seductive charm. (One of his songs, “I’m Alive,” has been stuck in my head since seeing the show last week!). Emma Hunton, daughter Natalie, has such a beautiful, clear voice, especially in “Superboy and The Invisible Girl” (another one of my favorites) that she immediately grabs your attention with each number. Jeremy Kushnier, Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine, has one of the funniest scenes in the whole play when he becomes a rock star in Diana’s hallucination. And Preston Sadleir, as Henry, brings that teenage awkwardness that makes him likable from the beginning when he nervously approaches Natalie.

Besides the strong cast performance and catchy songs, the electrifying lights on the set play an important role in bringing energy and life into each number.

Next to Normal runs through February 20th at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco.

- Connie C. Kim, CBS San Francisco Reviewer

Playing at the Curran Theatre, in San Francisco, January 25 – February 20 (Tues – Sat, 8PM, Wed, Sat & Sun at 2PM) as part of the 2010-2011 Best of Broadway series under the direction of Carole Shorenstein Hays. Produced by David Stone, James L. Nederlander, Barbara Whitman, Patrick Catullo, and Second Stage Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at shnsf.com or by calling SHN Audience Services at 888 SHN 1799 (888 746 1799). A limited number of $30 RUSH MEZZANINE SEATS will be available for all performances. RUSH tickets can be purchased on the day of performance only and are only available 2 HOURS PRIOR TO PERFORMANCE at the Curran Theatre Box Office.

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