Reston Community Players continued their season of strong women with the award winning musical Next to Normal. The multiple Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize- winning musical by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt has become a popular choice for theatres around the area as several productions of the show are popping up all over the DC Metro area. It was an excellent choice for RCP to follow The Savannah Disputation, which also featured some characters that were also bit off from ‘normal.’
Next to Normal follows the Goodman family and their struggle to deal with their wife/mother’s bipolar manic depression. Diane Goodman (Jolene Vettese) suffers from mood swings and unpredictable behavior, due to the death of her first child and her inability to cope realistically with it. Vettese delivers an emotionally charged and passionate performance, and sings the role beautifully. The story deals with the relationship between Diana and her husband Dan (Harv Lester) and the effect Diana’s illness has on Dan and their daughter Natalie (Ashleigh Markin), as Natalie starts to use drugs while starting a teenage romance with Henry (Miguel Lopez).
Another thing I liked about the Reston Community Players production of Next to Normal was the group of excellent and talented musicians who played Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey’s with gusto. The score which is labeled ‘rock’ actually bends into other genres like classical, jazz, and country. The musicians were conducted by Musical Director Elisa Rosman, who also provided her talents on the piano. Jim Hofmann and Kevin Uleck played the percussion and Rick Netherton held down the beat on the bass. Kirby Lee played violin and keyboards, Virginia Gardner was on the cello while Rob Weaver handled the guitar. Alan Margolis and Matt Jeffrey provide their skills as the audition accompanists.Playing in a pit underneath the stage they never distracted from the action unfolding above them. The musicians sounded great!
Terrance M. Barr who plays Gabe Goodman was outstanding. He delivered “I’m Alive” like a rock star. Barr makes a strong entrance on “Just Another Day” and shined throughout. Jolene Vettese’s delivered emotionally charged vocal on “You Don’t Know,” and “I Miss the Mountains.’ I loved the references to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest on “Didn’t I see This Movie.” Harv Lester’s vocals on “He’s Not Here” and the reprise of “I Am the One” with Barr were heartfelt and ‘real.’
Asleigh Markin’s multi-layered performance as Natalie was very impressive and she and Miguel Lopez – as her stoner but very patient boyfriend – had great chemistry together. The songs they sing together, including ‘Perfect for You’ are powerfully delivered with much affection.
Eric Hughes does a solid job as Dr. Fine and Dr. Madden. I enjoyed his ‘transformation’ from Doctor to rock star and back when treating Diana, and I was very moved by his scene with Dan at the end of the show when he asks Dan if he would like him to refer him to a therapist.
Director Andrew JM Regiec draws honest and effective performances form every member of his cast.. Regiec also designed the set. There was plenty of open space for the action to unfold. Elevated spaces for the bedroom and for Natalie’s room allowed the audience to view the action going on at the same time in other areas of the house. Sound Designer DJ Drummond and sound board operators Michael O’Conner, Rich Bird, and Jason Willett did a great job with the crisp sound they provided.
Reston Community Players delivers a strong production of Next to Normal. It’s filled with fine performances, some fine singing, and lots of power and ‘heart.’
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, with a 15- minute intermission.
Next to Normal plays through March 24, 2012 at CenterStage, at The Reston Community Center – 2310 Colts Neck Road, in Reston, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 476-4500, or purchase them online.