Next to Normal, is a Broadway pop musical about Electroconvulsive Therapy and suicidal ideation. And you may ask: how in the world does one sing about psychopharmacology and major depressive disorder? With lyrics like this: "Zoloft and Paxil and Buspar and Xanex...These are a few of my favorite pills."
Which is to say, it's not your daddy's Rodgers and Hammerstein hoe-down. Next to Normal, which opened on Broadway in 2009 and just arrived in San Francisco last week, uses sardonic wit and dark humor to lighten this heartbreaking story of a family desolated by mental illness.
At the center of this Pulitzer-Prize winning musical is Alice Ripley, who won a Tony for her performance as a wife and mother suffering from bi-polar disorder and psychotic delusions. Fortunately, Ripley has joined the touring cast of the show, because it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. For one thing, Ripley has an incredibly unique singing voice -- low and throaty, which perfectly communicates her character Diana's pain. It can sound a little bit like Marianne Faithful -- just a few nerves away from a breakdown.
The musical numbers (Brian Yorkeyto won a Tony for the book and lyrics and Tom Kitt wrote the score) have a profundity and resonance that are startling in their plain truth.