BWW Review: NEXT TO NORMAL at Uppsala Stadsteater
Next to Normal, opening at Uppsala Stadsteater, 29th of February
I have seen Next To Normal in two different sets before, Oslo 2011 and at the Stockholm Stadsteater 2012 with, among others, Lisa Nilsson as Diana and Bruno Mitsogiannis as the son Gabriel. Two very good sets. Now, 8 years later, it's time to see it again at Uppsala Stadsteater.
Text and script are written by Brian Yorkey and it is Calle Norlén who is responsible for the translation to Swedish. Music by Tom Kitt. This is a musical about mental ill-health, so the music is not of the happier or sing-a-long kind, but more lyrics which is sung and carry the story in a strong and gripping way. A musical that really requires the actors to both sing and articulate well and being able to express the story in the song. And it is no doubt that this ensemble can touch the feelings and grab hold of the audience with this powerful story. Helen Sjöholm is tailor made to play Diana, the mother who can't let go of her son Gabriel (Martin Redhe Nord) who died 18 years ago. There are few who can sing with so much emotions in their song, use every muscle in their face for the right expression and their way of acting as Helen can. She is absolutely magical and her Diana is so strong and gripping, it is breathtaking. She really shines in this role. Martin Redhe Nord has an incredible presence and intensity when he plays the dead Gabriel who does not let go of his parents. Dad, Dan, (Rolf Lydahl) does everything he can to support his wife and outwardly he seems to have come over his son's death, but towards the end, you realize that he is fighting just as much but he just doesn't let it show. You suffer with Dan in his struggle and despair to heal Diana. To get over the grief, they had another child, Natalie (Stina Nordberg), but Diana has never been able to connect with her, which has made Natalie feel ignored. She has a hard time letting her schoolmate Henrik (James Lund) into her life and she is ashamed to bring him home with her family. Diana has been medicating for many years to feel better, but her doctor Doctor Frisk / Doctor Galén (Daniel Engman) is testing new combinations of pills, conversation therapy without much success and finally also testing ECT (electric shock) with the side effect of Diana suffering from memory loss. Daniel Engman with his powerful voice is incredibly good as the two doctors. It is a poignant drama about a family that suffers a great deal of grief and the effects it has on the whole family when one in the family suffers from mental illness. But it also makes you think what would have happened if you had given the grief a little more time to heal, instead of starting to give strong medicines. Are medicines given too easily by doctors sometimes? And how should you support the rest of the family?
The scenography is simple and effective even though the high frame felt a little unnecessarily high and can probably be a little disturbing if you sit on the first rows. The costumes go in a down-to-earth and pale color scale that emphasizes the depressing and serious tone in the story.
It is really worth traveling to Uppsala to see this strong and emotionally charged musical with some of Sweden's best musical artists.
Next to Normal is scheduled to play until the 6th of May.
Tickets can be purchased at: