Theater Review

Slow Burn delivers a scorching ‘Next to Normal’

 

If you go

What: ‘Next to Normal’ by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt.

Where: Slow Burn Theatre production at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater, 12811 W. Glades Rd., Boca Raton, through Nov. 2; moves to Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St., Aventura, Nov. 7-10.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday in Boca; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday in Aventura.

Cost: $40 ($35 seniors, $25 students) in Boca; $34.50 and $39.50 in Aventura.

For more info: Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.slowburntheatre.org; for Aventura, call 877-311-7469 or visit www.aventuracenter.org.


cdolen@MiamiHerald.com

That most American of theater forms, the musical, turns serious and penetrating and haunting in Next to Normal, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama. With an exquisite rock-driven score by Tom Kitt and gripping drama from playwright-lyricist Brian Yorkey, the piece about a woman’s bipolar disorder and its devastating effects on her family is extraordinarily powerful theater.

Coral Gables-based Actors’ Playhouse was the first South Florida company to present the show, winning widespread acclaim for its 2012 production. Now Boca Raton’s Slow Burn Theatre, which is expanding its reach via a partnership with the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, is offering up its version of Next to Normal. Utilizing local actors, musicians and designers, director Patrick Fitzwater easily proves a point he makes at the top of the show: The talent here impressively meets the challenges of this demanding musical.

Next to Normal revolves around Diana (Sharyn Peoples), a wife and mother whose mental state has swung from manic to depressive throughout most of her marriage. Her husband Dan (Matthew Korinko) is steady and supportive, clinging to a semblance of normalcy that never lasts for long. Their bright, overachieving daughter Natalie (Anne Chamberlain) copes with a teenager’s predictable emotional upheavals and the certainty that her mother’s illness is an impermeable wall between them. Yet there are no walls, for better or worse, between Diana and her son Gabe (Bruno Vida), who represents his mother’s aching heart, psyche and soul.

On the periphery of this dysfunctional family unit are Henry (Jason Edelstein), Natalie’s smitten classmate and a guy made of the same empathetic stuff as Dan, and a pair of psychiatrists (Clay Cartland plays both) who, in trying to help Diana, drain her of emotion and memory.

Kitt’s score, played beautifully by musical director Manny Schvartzman and five musicians, integrates multiple musical styles, including driving rock on Natalie’s angry Superboy and the Invisible Girl and Gabe’s defiant I’m Alive, a tender waltz for Diana and Gabe on I Dreamed a Dance, Diana’s folk-tinged lament on I Miss the Mountains. The voices of the six actors blend with power, clarity and, at times, a loveliness that shatters, as when Dan, Diana and Natalie sing Song of Forgetting.

Set designer Sean McClelland gives the family the white bones of a suburban home, appropriate for a haunted woman, and lighting designer Lance Blank underscores emotional shifts with color. Rick Peña emphasizes the family’s ordinariness, Diana’s flattened emotional state and the links between Dan and Henry via his costume design. And sound designer Rich Szczublewski supplies the vital clarity that allows Yorkey’s story to land so devastatingly.

That couldn’t happen, of course, without the cast’s powerful performances. The singer-actors are assured and heartbreaking, Peoples and Korinko capturing Diana and Dan’s bond and their suffering, Chamberlain and Edelstein conveying teens roller-coaster emotions, Vida making Gabe both tender and chilling, and Cartland finding the humor and matter-of-fact frightening qualities in the shrinks.

Next to Normal plays Slow Burn’s home base at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater until Nov. 2, then becomes the troupe’s first production to play the Aventura Arts & Cultural Center Nov. 7-10. The buzz surrounding the company has built steadily through its first four years. See Next to Normal and you’ll understand why.

Read more Performing Arts stories from the Miami Herald

  • classical music

    Classical review: Dranoff Foundation does another enterprising two-piano program

    The Dranoff Foundation’s enterprising concert programs have admirably highlighted rarely heard two-piano repertoire, and Saturday night's “Jazz Squared” concert at the South Miami Dade Cultural Center in Cutler Bay was no exception. Duo Stephanie and Saar traversed a menu of jazz-infused works with fine technique and musicality. Still, it’s clear that the husband-and-wife team of Stephanie Ho and Saar Ahuvia are classicists at heart, and their strongest performances were in music of Chopin and Beethoven.

  • classical music

    Classical review: New World Symphony does a lively 18 Musicians by Reich

    The New World Symphony’s Percussion Consort presented American composer Steve Reich’s iconic Music for 18 Musicians Saturday night, attracting a festive, all-ages crowd for this one-hour, high-energy show.

  •  
Miami based artist Juana Meneses, left, and Leila Leder Kremer are the creators of “Home "HOME: BEYOND GEOGRAPHY", which is a participatory writing art project which shares personal histories and memories of South Florida on Thursday April 10, 2014

    O, Miami Poetry Festival

    ‘Home: Beyond Geography’ explores immigrants’ stories about coming to Miami

    Two visual artists are asking immigrants to share their experiences about coming to Miami by taking part in a participatory writing project that in part explores the concept of identity.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category