The small She & Her Productions has taken on this month's other production of a Pulitzer-winning drama, this one a rock musical that picked up three Tony Awards.
Next to Normal (book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey, music by Tom Kitt), directed by Tiffany Garrison-Schweigert, arrives on the heels of the touring Broadway show, which came through Kansas City in June and played the Kauffman Center. That's a tough act to follow, but this is a moving, funny play no matter where it's seen, or how often.
With 37 musical numbers and seven musicians (directed here by Jim Vinkenberg), the two acts (and two and a half hours) are no small undertaking. The very competent live band hits all the right notes, but their volume often overpowers the dialogue and lyrics, even with miked actors. And that's a shame because those actors render the songs beautifully.
The plot follows a nuclear family confronting a member's chronic bipolar disorder. Diana Goodman (Kristin Leathers) suffers the manic-depression. Her husband, Dan (Robert Hingula), hopes treatment brings healing. Teenage daughter Natalie (Deanna Mazdra) feels her mother's neglect. And adolescent son Gabe (Daniel Beeman) vies for attention. Doctors (Graham Fairleigh) and Natalie's boyfriend (Matthew King) add dimension to the story.
Dan holds this family together, and Hingula (a lawyer by day) centers this production as well in a sensitive portrayal of a husband who loves his wife and wants their life to return to the way it once was. And Beeman's Gabe lends a powerful presence. Some of the script's demands are difficult to pull off, but it's next to impossible not to feel the impact of this Next to Normal.