BWW Review: NEXT TO NORMAL is 'Alive' at Warsaw Federal Incline Theater
The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater's 2018-2019 District series is "alive" and well with their season opener Next to Normal running now through October 21. With World Mental Health Day being this past week, the show feels more prominent now than ever. Next To Normal follows the Goodman family: Dan, Diana, their daughter Natalie, and their son Gabe as they try to deal with mental health and everyday life.
Lesley Hitch leads the company as Diana Goodman, a wife and mother suffering from a 16 year long battle with bipolar depression, among other things. Hitch gives an absolutely heart-wrenching performance as Diana. Her Act I ballad, "I Miss the Mountains" where she realizes she misses feeling the ups and downs of her mental health, and decides to do something about it is chilling. Her vocal ability, as well as her chemistry with her children, was breathtaking. In Act 2, Hitch and Leslie Kelly, who plays her daughter Natalie, have a devastatingly raw duet, "Maybe (Next to Normal)", in which Diana explains and apologizes for her situation and Natalie shares that she just wants a family that is "next to normal". This was one of the many highlights of the musical.
Another significant highlight is the show's famous duet between Natalie and her brother, Gabe (played by Tanner Gleason): "Superboy and The Invisible Girl". Gleason and Kelly's powerhouse voices mesh perfectly together to create a dynamite duet. Gleason and Kelly have such interesting chemistry for their given circumstances in the show. Without giving too much away, there is an apparent reason why Gabe and Natalie cannot have a typical sibling relationship, yet they both work flawlessly together. Between their previously mentioned vocal abilities and beautifully real performances, Gleason and Kelly steal the show.
Rounding out the brilliant cast is Brian Anderson as the father, Dan Goodman; Elliot Handkins as Natalie's love interest Henry; Derek Harper as Dr. Fine/Dr. Madden. The entire cast allows their characters to be so authentic and honest that the audience truly felt that they were a part of the troubled family dynamic as well.
WFIT's Next to Normal takes audience members on a cathartic, emotional rollercoaster, that lets them walk out of the theater having experienced something larger than themselves. Feeling like you wish you were there? You still have time to catch Next to Normal through October 21.