Review: Next to Normal at Phoenix Theatre 

***1/2
click to enlarge Next to Normal at the Phoenix Theatre
  • Next to Normal at the Phoenix Theatre

Without the Phoenix Theater, Indy audiences would likely have to wait for years to see fresh-off-Broadway shows like Next to Normal, Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey's Tony-winning musical that offers a visceral and striking journey through a mother's madness.

The show's small cast of six is largely believable. Charlie Clark gives a forceful performance as Dan, the husband of a depressive wife who's struggling to make the right choices for his family. Olivia Huntley as the daughter, Natalie, gives an at first predictable performance of angst-ridden teenager-dom that eventually blossoms into a more realistic and painful take.

Will Hutcheson, who gives a menacing portrayal of son Gabe, has a voice that soars above the rest, adding to his power, and giving heft to his sense of desperation. As mother Diana, Emily Ristine - and her pristine voice - carries the show, even if the doe-eyed actress seems altogether too young to have birthed two teenagers.

Kitt's score has a lilting, yet melancholy quality that informs moments of both hope and of despair. Unfortunately, no one in the show quite digs into the emotional depths implied by the score, and director Bryan Fonseca is likely to blame. This dark musical calls for more than just pretty singing. The cast just seems too sane, and when hope and optimism flood the final number, it feels inauthentic and unearned.

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Katelyn Coyne

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