REVIEW: Next to Normal – Wyndham’s Theatre – West End


The critically acclaimed Donmar Warehouse production of “Next to Normal” has made a triumphant transition to Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End, captivating audiences with its raw emotional power, nuanced performances, and sophisticated staging.

“Next to Normal” is a groundbreaking rock musical that delves into the complexities of a suburban family dealing with mental illness, grief, and the quest for normalcy. At its core is Diana Goodman, a mother struggling with bipolar disorder, whose attempts to maintain a semblance of normal life are continually thwarted by her condition and the haunting presence of her past. Her husband, Dan, strives to be the unwavering support system, while their daughter, Natalie, feels increasingly overshadowed and neglected. The musical poignantly explores how Diana’s illness impacts each family member, unraveling their deepest fears and desires. “Next to Normal,” with its powerful score by Tom Kitt and poignant lyrics by Brian Yorkey, offers an unflinching yet compassionate portrayal of a family’s struggle to navigate the turbulence of mental health issues, making it a deeply moving and resonant piece of contemporary theatre.

Caissie Levy’s portrayal of Diana Goodman is nothing short of breathtaking. Levy’s performance alone is easily worth the cost of a ticket. Known for her role as Elsa in “Frozen” on Broadway, Levy brings a depth to Diana that is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Her vocal performance is powerful and nuanced, capturing the complexities of a mother grappling with bipolar disorder and haunted by her past. Levy’s ability to convey Diana’s emotional highs and lows through song is a testament to her extraordinary talent, making her a standout in an already stellar cast.

Jamie Parker, as Dan Goodman, delivers a solid and moving performance. His portrayal of a husband struggling to hold his family together amidst chaos is deeply affecting. Parker’s chemistry with Levy is palpable, providing a poignant exploration of love and resilience in the face of adversity. His rich, resonant voice adds a layer of gravitas to his character’s moments of despair and determination.

The real revelation, however, is Jack Wolfe as Gabe Goodman. Wolfe’s performance is a masterful blend of playful and malevolent, perfectly capturing the duality of his character. The chemistry between Wolfe and Levy heightens the emotional stakes of the story, making their scenes together some of the most memorable of the production. Wolfe’s vocal prowess, combined with his compelling stage presence, ensures that Gabe’s numbers are both mesmerizing and chilling.

Eleanor Worthington-Cox shines as Natalie Goodman, bringing a raw vulnerability to her role as a daughter caught in the tumult of her family’s struggles. Her portrayal is both poignant and relatable, capturing the angst and yearning of a young woman seeking stability in an unstable environment. Worthington-Cox’s vocal performance is equally impressive, infusing Natalie’s songs with emotion and intensity.

Trevor Dion Nicholas, as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine, brings a dynamic energy to his roles. His portrayal of the dual characters is both humorous and authoritative, providing moments of levity as well as tension. Jack Ofrecio, as Henry, delivers a tender and heartfelt performance, adding another layer of emotional depth to the production. This cast were phenomenal in the Donmar production; they are even better now.

The musical composition by Tom Kitt, with lyrics by Brian Yorkey, remains as impactful as ever. The score is varied and playful, seamlessly blending rock elements with poignant ballads. The music is not only beautiful but also serves to underscore the emotional journey of the characters. There is something particularly masterful about the writing and composition of this musical. It’s not a surprise that the musical won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama – the construction of this musical is perfection. Gabe’s numbers, in particular, stand out for their brilliant composition and Wolfe’s compelling delivery. The playful yet sinister quality of these songs adds a layer of complexity to the character and enhances the overall narrative.

Director Michael Longhurst’s use of the revolve on stage is a masterstroke. The revolving stage effectively symbolizes the chaotic and spinning nature of the Goodman household, visually representing the instability and disorientation that the characters experience. This creative choice adds a dynamic visual element to the production, enhancing the storytelling.

The set design by Chloe Lamford is effective in creating the various settings required for the story. While the set perhaps lacks the intimacy of the original Donmar Warehouse setting, it successfully creates the necessary backdrop for the intense emotional journey of the characters. The design choices contribute to the atmosphere, making the audience feel the weight of the Goodmans’ struggles. This is enhanced by video and projection design from Tal Rosner, though it could be argued that this could be taken further.

While the production is nearly flawless, some areas of the structure and pacing could benefit from refinement. There are moments when the narrative flow feels slightly uneven, which can impact the overall engagement with the storyline. Certain scenes might benefit from tighter transitions to maintain the momentum and emotional intensity throughout the performance.

In conclusion, the West End production of “Next to Normal” is a powerful and moving theatrical experience. The combination of outstanding vocal performances, a beautifully written score, and compelling direction makes it a must-see for theatre enthusiasts. The production delivers a poignant exploration of mental illness, loss, and the enduring strength of family bonds. “Next to Normal” at Wyndham’s Theatre is a testament to the transformative power of theatre, offering a deeply affecting portrayal of the complexities of family life and mental health.

Next to Normal plays until 21st September. Tickets available here.

Photography throughout from Marc Brenner.






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