We take a look at what is being said about this London premiere of the Pulitzer prize-winning musical… 

(c)Marc Brenner

The Guardian: *** “Brian Yorkey’s book and lyrics prove that a portrait of a chronic mental illness doesn’t have to be grim. There is plenty of verve and momentum in a first half that fizzes with humour, from a sexy jazz number about Diana’s pill regimen to the patter song in which her well-intentioned, desperate husband (Jamie Parker) tries to convince himself that all will be well. Chloe Lamford’s stylish design reflects the energy on stage with screens that sometimes hide and sometimes reveal the musicians, and mirror manic episodes with dizzying electric patterns.”

Evening Standard: **** “The Donmar could have been designed for this domestic chamber musical. The final song, Light, brings the house down. I’m never sure if Broadway’s impassioned style of performance will work in London. This time, it does.”

The Telegraph: **** “An improbable but huge hit on Broadway, Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s gut-wrenching, blackly comic production is at last over here.”

All That Dazzles: ***** “It would be easy to dismiss Next To Normal as a one star show, but that couldn’t be further from the truth as each of the six cast members get their chance to shine. Jamie Parker continues his flawless track record for new musicals in London this year with a captivating turn as Diana’s husband Dan. Though his character has to often take a back seat, the understated nature of his performance showcases his talents as an actor and makes the moments he is centre stage all the more impactful. His performances of numbers ‘I’ve Been’ and ‘I Am The One’ created two of the strongest moments of the show.”

Broadway World: ***** “It’s a heart-shatteringly extraordinary piece of theatre. It has no heroes or villains, just ordinary people trying to survive intense heartache and the alienation of mental illness. As Kitt and Yorkey untangle the knots between pain and rage, empathy and resentment with their hard-hitting tableaux of sorrow, Longhurst’s venue and its intimate auditorium elicit an emotional response whether you want it or not.”

(c)Marc Brenner

Time Out: *** “In particular, it’s a privilege to see Broadway star Caissie Levy in the lead part of bipolar mum/mom Diana, whose inability to get over a tragedy that occurred 18 years ago is the engine of the story. She is remarkable in a role that requires her to shift between emotional extremes at the drop of a pin, and has a tremendous voice, pure and clean and cutting. In a very real sense she is the show: it’s her total belief in Diana that keeps the whole thing soaring in spite of some very questionable writing.”

iNews: **** “Michael Longhurst’s sensitive and intelligent production of this delicate chamber piece matches the six-strong cast with a six-piece band, which is spread out over the upstairs rooms of the family’s home.”

The Independent: *** “This Donmar revival of a Broadway smash about a suburban mother struggling with uncontrollable moods has a star turn from Caissie Levy, but fails to capture the messiness of its subject.”

London Theatre.co.uk: **** “Jack Wolfe brings electrifying rock-star vocals to son Gabe, particularly in standout number “I’m Alive” – he’s definitely one to watch. Trevor Dion Nicholas, who was tremendous in Aladdin and Hamilton, gives a much more understated but equally impressive performance here. He’s a wonderfully sensitive scene partner to Levy.”

Musical Theatre Review: **** “Next to Normal gives a frank, revealing experience of living with – and living with someone who is living with – a severe psychological disorder. It may have taken years to arrive in the West End, but its presence is welcome indeed.”

(c)Marc Brenner

City Am: “It’s all set in a wonderfully realised family home, with tunes delivered by a band located in the attic, not dissimilar to the band in the recent Richard Hawley musical Standing at the Sky’s Edge. There’s a reason this musical has stood the test of time and the Donmar more than does it justice.”

West End Best Friend: ***** “Michael Longhurst’s direction is exemplary, often keeping characters on stage whilst the main action is happening elsewhere. This is done in such an expert way that it doesn’t pull focus from the main scene, but if you choose to look, you can see them going through a whole emotional journey. We love the decision for there to be no physical walls on the stage, the whole house is exposed.’

London Theatre1: **** “At times Next To Normal can be a difficult watch – it’s a million miles away from a frothy, feel-good musical. Whilst it isn’t sung-through, there’s not a lot of dialogue and the story is told through song – there are over thirty of them – and at times Kitt’s big melodies can be a bit overwhelming but given the subject matter, maybe that’s the point – it’s a relentless journey that we’re taken on.”

Theatre Weekly: “This may be the musical that paved the way for shows like Dear Evan Hansen and Fun Home, but it stands apart for its unwavering commitment to telling a truthful and honest story, no matter what.  It’s been a long fifteen years, but it’s been worth the wait as this emotionally charged production of Next to Normal is an absolute triumph that deserves, and needs, a longer run than is currently scheduled.”

There Ought to be Clowns: “Performance-wise, Longhurst maintains a crack Donmar standard. Caissie Levy’s Diana stuns in her state of delusion and disorder and nails the rockier edges of Kitt’s score. Jamie Parker is quietly excellent in what is turning out to be a great year for him and Eleanor Worthington-Cox and Jack Wolfe do so well at conveying the contrasting experiences of their children, Wolfe’s vocal in particular is extraordinary at times. Musically, it’s not fully my bag but Nick Barstow’s musical direction keeps it sounding great and Chloe Lamford’s design does a fantastic job of reconceiving how the space can be used when there’s a band to fit in as well. A powerful production of material that might have had its day.”

Next to Normal continues to play at the Donmar Warehouse until the 7th October.


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