I was fortunate enough to see the Long Island Premiere production of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s rock musical Next To Normal. It is the 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning and Tony Award Winning musical about A family dealing with loss and mental illness. The characters, story content, and music is iconic, regardless of it being around for only 5 short years. This production was put on by Theatre Three, in Port Jefferson Long Island, a very fitting place for a LI premiere.
First of all let me give the producers and creative staff major credit for being so willing to take on such a monumental production. This is a musical that will be seldom performed do to its heavy nature and very mature content. I must also applaud the director for making individualistic choices, and not mirroring a successful broadway production. Being such an iconic piece, he owned up to it just enough, without being afraid to make his own creative decisions. I give a big brava to the pit, just having an orchestra, instead of a track, set this show above anything else playing in a non-equity house on Long Island at the moment. Credit to the actors who all gave outstanding performances, especially those who played Natalie and Gabe (the romantic interests). The mother, Diana, and the son, Gabe, did wonders with the two most difficult roles, both owning up to and highlighting their own character work.
Now I know you are not supposed to compare something like this, community theatre, to the original productions, but I will anyways. There is currently 7 professional productions currently running or opening at this moment across the world, and this show could very well hold its own against that. The only issue being these performers do not contain the stamina and wherewithal to perform at that level. This shows limited run was even a stretch for their abilities. Also Next To Normal is seeing marred success do to its audiences. They have an extremely large seasonal subscription basis within their audience. Subscription audiences tend to be elderly or only seeing the show to get their moneys worth. That was a majority of the audience I sat amongst. The show is far too contemporary and heavy for that kind of theatre goer. The other portion of the audience was largely fans of the musical, the ones who have seen it 6 or 7 times and can recite it by heart. They came looking for a carbon copy of the broadway production and more than likely left unsatisfited.
All things considered this production had a rare quality for Long Island theatre; it had exactly that, quality. It wasn’t a cheap get to make money, it was performed and created out of passion, love, and care, and it showed immensely. Would I easily consider this one of the best shows I have seen come out of Long Island Community Theatre, yes in fact I would. I leave you with this quote from the musicals finale:
“the price of love is loss, but still we pay, we love anyway.”