Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review: (Toronto) Next to Normal

(photo by Seanna Kennedy)

Music in Your Head
by Winna Tse

Have you ever wondered what it’d be like to live a normal life? That begs the question, what is normal? Next to Normal is a musical drama brought to us by The Lower Ossington Theatre that tells a story of a mother, Diana Goodman, who struggles with bipolar disorder and the effect her disorder has on her family. I was skeptical of how effective it would be to convey such a subject through a lively musical but in the end, I can only heap praise. Initially, the volume and lighting production is overwhelming as I find it difficult to concentrate when so many things are happening at once. However, I gradually realize that this is the point.

With a powerful cast, led by the wonderfully gifted Kylie McMahon, Mark Willet, Jacqueline Martin, Graham Fleming, Colin Jones and David Michael Moote, Next to Normal is a genuine portrayal of those suffering bipolar disorder. It brought to the forefront  just how inexplicable bipolar disorder and the other host of mental illnesses can be.

Undoubtedly, a musical proved to be a wise choice as it only enhances the impact of such a taboo subject bringing many tears from the audience, myself included. As an ensemble they were boisterous and daunting but as solo acts, they were soothing and heartbreaking. This is an excellent juxtaposition and an astute depiction of mental illness. For people who know little about mental illness or fail to understand its complexity, Next to Normal would be a great avenue to understanding such a deeply misunderstood problem. At the same time, it also shows us that there is hope and opportunity for living a normal life, whatever that may be.

Next to Normal continues to September 29 at the Lower Ossington Theatre
Read also our review of the original cast album

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