BWW Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at the Hilberry Theatre is an Emotional Ride

The Hilberry Theatre's version of Next to Normal is one that does the Pulitzer Prize-winning rock musical justice. It is a powerful production that is filled with emotional and interesting performances by the talented cast. It is the first musical the company has performed since 2009 and they do not disappoint with any aspect. From the cast to the orchestra to set - it is a show that will move you on many levels.

Next to Normal follows the life of the Goodman family, who on the surface seems like the typical suburbanite family, but as the show progresses further, and all is not what it seems. Diana Goodman, the mother, suffers from mental illness and the musical shows how it affects her and her entire family. The music by Tom Kitt and lyrics by Brian Yorkey are exceptionally poignant made even more so when performed by the cast, especially Devri Chism* who plays Diana and Kyle Mitchell Johnson who plays Dan, her husband. Watching the chemistry and dynamics between Chism and Johnson are a perfect example of an incredible powerhouse of emotions pouring off the stage throughout the show.

Devri Chism is phenomenal in the role of Diana. She understands the depths of Diana's struggle with mental illness and plays every emotion perfectly allowing the audience to feel that they are battling right along with her. She never loses focus on who Diana is and her emotions continually grow as the show advances. Chism has a gorgeous singing voice that fits perfectly with the music for Next to Normal. Not only through her acting, but through her singing voice as well, the emotions she delivers on stage are incredibly powerful to witness and experience during her performance.

Kyle Mitchell Johnson is exceptional in the role of Dan. If it was possible to have a part be perfectly tailored for an actor, Dan would be that role for Johnson. The way he embodied the role of Dan was nothing short of amazing. Johnson makes you ache right along with Dan and root for him. He makes you feel while you laugh and while you cry as you from the other side of mental illness. And his singing voice is one that will touch you as it is filled with emotion especially pure love and grief. It is worth seeing the show for Johnson's performance alone.

Devri Chism & Kyle Mitchell Johnson

The rest of the cast rounded out by Wesley Cady (Natalie), James Kern (Henry), Cody Robison (Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden), Nick Stockwell* (Gabe), Tiffany Michelle Thompson* (Diana), and Brandon A. Wright* (Gabe). *The Diana and Gabe roles alternate performance dates.

The topic of the struggle of mental illness is such a taboo subject, but Kitt and Yorkey brought it into the spotlight with Next to Normal and made it something more easily discussed through musical theatre. The Hilberry Company helping bring that discussion of mental health to Detroit theatre with this emotional performance of Next of Normal. It is a performance worth seeing for the emotional ride it will give and the conversation it will bring.

Please note: Next to Normal includes potentially triggering scenes regarding mental health.

Next to Normal is currently running until February 12th at the Hilberry Theatre in Detroit. For more information or tickets, visit

Photo Credit: Chuk Nowak.

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From This Author Katie Laban

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