BWW Review: Lower Ossington Theatre's NEXT TO NORMAL Is Emotional, Stripped Down, and Intimate
Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's NEXT TO NORMAL is a Pulitzer prize and Tony award winning musical that has thrived in the theater world. The show about bipolar Diana Goodman and how her illness affects her and her whole family continues to touch peoples hearts. It takes a certain amount of passion, emotion, care, and overall talent to perform this complex piece. The LOT (Lower Ossington Theatre) seems to understand this, as its production of the show will leave its audience with some food for thought, and most likley in tears.
The LOTS's NEXT TO NORMAL features Kylie Kylie McMahon as Diana Goodman, Mark Willet as Dan, Jacqueline Martin as Natalie, Graham Scott Fleming as Gabe, Colin Jones as Henry, and David Michael Moote as Brian.
In the LOT's production of NEXT TO NORMAL, everything is perfected to a tee. Cues, lighting, acting, choreography, everything were all exceptionally well executed. Boasting a fierce cast, epic set design, and near perfect directing, NEXT TO NORMAL might be one of the greatest things ever done at the LOT.
If you frequent the LOT, you will recognize a lot of these faces from past shows. These dynamic actors take on iconic role after iconic role, and their talent speaks volumes about why they are returning. Three time LOT performer Jacqueline Martin is a key example of that. Formerly Kate Monster in the LOT productions of AVENUE Q and Joanna in its production of RENT, Martin owns very role thrown her way. She might tone it down as Natalie, but this makes her performance that much more important to go see. Martin's near angelic vocals soar in what is arguably some of the shows greatest songs. 'Everything Else," and "Superboy and the Invisible Girl are easily two of the shows most beautiful numbers, and Jacqueline will pull at every heartstring, and make you feel every emotion when you hear her perform them. The angsty, confused nature of her character Natalie is perfectly portrayed as Martin fully makes herself vulnerable by diving into the complicated and emotionally challenging role.
The whole cast shines in this show. Fleming makes an almost angelic Gabe, Willet encapsulates the internal struggles of Dan, and Kylie McMahon makes the perfect Diana. Perfect is no exaggeration, as Kylie McMahon channels the confusion, internal conflict, anger, and rawness of the character. She will have you in tears in one moment, and will have you laughing at Diana's quirks in the next. Diana's role is a complex and emotional one, and she plays it to a tee. Special shout out goes to LOT newcomer Colin Jones who is enchanting as Natalie's love interest Henry. His chemistry with Jacqueline as his love inerest Natalie shines as their duet "Perfect For You" is a true highlight in the show, and one of the shows most beautiful numbers.
The cast soared through the challenging musical numbers with perfect vocals. Fleming particularly delivered the performance of the night with his big solo, "I'm Alive." His riffs, belts, and over all energy was enough to give you goose bumps. His back and forth with Kylie McMahon was hauntingly beautiful, their chemistry undeniable. His essence as Gabe was captivating, and his approach to the complex character was incredible.
There will never be enough positive words to describe this production of NEXT TO NORMAL. The set was stunning, the feel and atmosphere perfectly intimate. The visit to the washroom upon intermission consisted of few women actually having to use the restroom, as most visited to fix their faces after tears did some damage to their makeup.
The LOT's production of NEXT TO NORMAL is a must see. The cast delivers an emotional and passionate performance you do not want to miss. NEXT TO NORMAL will play at the LOT on select dates from September 12-29. Tickets are currently availble online for purchase.