Evan Hansen camp of modern musicals that forego sequins and kick lines and focus instead on the challenges of real life. Mental illness and extreme grief frame the narrative of this rock opera, a dysfunctional family fighting for normalcy at its centre. Mother Diana Goodman (Danielle Viola) is lost to her debilitating psychological struggles, the ripple effect of her illness and the loss that brought it on touching each member of the family in turn.
Samantha Heath gives a standout performance as Natalie, Diana’s angsty teenaged daughter, her voice effortless and haunting. Rendered nearly invisible to her grieving family, Heath’s Natalie is beautifully portrayed, and her chemistry with the equally talented Austin Gagnier’s caring stoner boyfriend, Henry, is magical to watch.
Indeed, Curtain Call offers an impressive amount of talent across the board, made all the more impressive by the young age of everyone involved in the production. Viola and Mason Miceveski as Diana’s devoted husband Dan manage an incredibly believable portrayal of middle-aged parents in the throes of marital and parental struggles, despite the actors themselves being nearly the age of their on–stage children. Jared Morado plays a heart–wrenching eldest son, Gabe, and Jacob Rushton’s array of doctors are bursting with charisma. The vocal talents of this young cast shine throughout this harmony–heavy musical, weaving together in ways that can’t help but entice goosebumps. Viola’s vocal talents are most highlighted during softer ballads, though her belting during the rock-inspired numbers often leans more towards yelling than controlled vocalization.
But as starkly honest as Next to Normal is, all is not what first it appears. Less than a quarter of the way through, a twist is revealed that adds a new layer of depth to this already canyon–deep musical. Through clever staging, that reveal is an effective one, leaving the audience breathless for a moment. Directors Kat Baranowski and Danielle Viola offer a number of such cleverly staged moments throughout the show, with a helping hand from some effective sound a lighting design.
The stage of Hamilton Theatre Inc. is compact, perhaps dauntingly so for a musical, but the space is used successfully, without any long scene changes bogging down the pace. A simple set — a kitchen table, coat stand, and pictures on the otherwise black walls — brings the audience into the hub of a family home. That the rest of the action takes place with this set in the background as we move from doctors’ offices and hospitals to disco ball–lit nightclubs and a high school classroom, serves as a constant reminder of what’s at the centre of this story: a family struggling for ‘normal’ after the worst has happened.
But what normal actually is, and what it means for the Goodman family, and for us all, is perhaps not so simple. Unapologetically real, heartbreaking, and life affirming, Next to Normal is a show that will stay with you long after the final bows have been taken. V
Next To Normal
July 19 and 20 at 7:30 PM
Hamilton Theatre Inc.,
140 MacNab Street N.
Tickets: at the door (cash only),
online at bruha.com,
or by contacting
(905) 541 - 6803
for ages 13+
-- mature language