Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Next to Normal at the Opera House
In the touring production currently playing at the Four Seasons Centre, those 6 people achieve varied amounts of success for the uneven but entertaining Dancap production.
The men in the principle love stories are clear enough but neither brings much gravitas to their role. Preston Sadleir's Henry is wonderfully sweet. He's endearing and engaging and all sorts of lovely things. What he's not, however, is a full fleshed out individual. I never really understood why he was staying, why he loved Natalie so much, I just understood that it was really nice that he did. As a symbol of all that's positive and healthy in Natalie's life, Sadleir delivers an excellent performance. As a character that comes close to matching her depth, he falls short. Asa Somers faces a similar challenge as Dan. Annunciation issues aside, Ripley is a fierce Diana- loud and forceful, frantic in her desperation. A flimsy Dan doesn't stand a chance of making sense next to her and Somers is just a little too lightweight to handle the grounding responsibility that defines Dan as a character. He needs to weigh her down but instead gets dragged behind her like a slightly resistant kite string.
Jeremy Kushnier fares much better as Diana's doctor. With the best voice in the cast, he gets at the heart of the character's sympathy but also portrays a frustrating detachment that haunts you on behalf of Diana. He also breaks out perfectly in his fantasy-sequence rock star moments.
When it comes down to it, Next to Normal has been brought to entirely the wrong space. The opera house is massive, light, airy and open. The intimate 6-person musical doesn't fill the space it's given and the audience is too far away to appreciate whatever detailed character work the actors achieve while making their way through the anguish of the difficult story. It's an actor's musical and anyone other than the first 3 rows of that opera house can't appreciate the actors' work.