Sunday, February 10, 2013

"Next to Normal" plays in northern VA (Alden Theater)

It’s interesting to see a Broadway show in a local suburban legitimate theater, especially a rock musical. And it was interesting to see “Next to Normal” on a Sunday afternoon, the day after seeing the film “Side Effects”, as if this show could make a “II” movie. 

I saw it in McLean VA (in NW Fairfax County) at the Alden Theater of the McClean Community Center, directed by Lisa Anne Bailey and David Rohde, performed by the McLean Community Players (link). The original music is by Tom Kitt, and the Book and Lyrics are by Brian Yorkey. At this venue, the show runs one more weekend (through Feb. 16).  
The show has two acts, and a very large number of short songs, and is almost entirely sung.  The story concerns the mental illness of Diana Goodman (Nicky McDonnell), who seems not to accept the loss of her son as a baby due to an unusual intestinal disease, and sees his teenage ghost (Nick Du Pre), who functions rather like the character Sam in the 1990 film “Ghost” (with Patrick Swayze). Her marriage to Dan (Brent Stone) still functions (the bed is on the stage, arranged to show most of the parts of a suburban home), and daughter Natalie (Catherine Callahan) struggles with mom’s problems while dating a somewhat ungamely Henry (Alex Stone). 
It’s a while before we learn what is going on, bit the psychiatric stuff comes on fast, with doctors.  You expect to see Jude Law (from “Side”) to walk on stage and sing at any moment.  They give Diana electroconvulsive shock therapy (simulated on stage), and for a while the resulting amnesia relieves her of her grief.

It’s a little unsettling to hear such lilting music to such a tragic subject.
A suburban theater can’t have its own orchestra, which of course makes the musical presence more effective when possible. 
The actors all wore wires and tiny mouthpieces. I’ve never seen this before on stage and have no idea how it works or why it’s necessary.
The official touring website is here

There was an interesting little problem as I entered the theater.  An elderly woman right behind me wanted physical assistance being seated.  This isn’t something that I feel very comfortable being confronted with.  But a big strong teenager suddenly came in behind her and provider the assistance.  I don’t think this has ever happened this way before right next to me in a public venue.

The McLean Community Center has a small art show upstairs, showing the drawings of Rosemary Luckett and gold-leaf-paintings of Thomas Xenakis.  Luckett has an item demonstrating the problem of nuclear waste (“Atomic Angel”).  Xenakis exhibits work in Bzyantine style with mystical themes, like “The Tree of Life and Death”, “The Beauty Between Heaven and Hell”, “Oasis”, and “Food Chain”. 
This morning, I had attended the Vienna Presbyterian Church (5 miles away), and a brass band played a symphonic overture (very familiar sounding , sonata form, C Major) by Victor Ewald.  This was a case of a familiar work by an obscure composer. 

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