Shock and withdrawal

Next to Normal

Going to the prom is normal, right?

Going to the prom is normal, right?

Photo By dinah smith

Next to Normal; 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday; $30-$35. Ewing Ventures at the Nevada Theatre, 401 Broad Street, Nevada City; (530) 265-5462; Through June 24.

Nevada Theatre

401 Broad St.
Nevada City, CA 95959

(530) 265-6161

Rated 4.0

Since both shows originally received 11 Tony nominations in their New York incarnations, let’s introduce Next to Normal (2009) as the polar opposite of Wicked (2003).

Wicked is enormous and visually grand, and won Tony awards for costumes and set. It also relies on well-worn characters and plot devices, and (box-office clout notwithstanding) a surprisingly slight score. Wicked’s colorful, relentlessly perky, and carefully-engineered—pop-culture confection set in a far-off-fantasy land. There’s not much meat on the bones.

Next to Normal is lean, close-to-home and realistic. And it’s a music-driven musical, winning Tony awards for score and orchestration, plus a Pulitzer for drama (drawing comparisons to Rent). It’s about a prosperous family in which a devastating tragedy has sent the mother off the deep end, with far too many shrinks and pills. The combination of mental-shock-and-withdrawal, the search for a “cure,” and the catchy rock score may recall Tommy, but Next to Normal is not a fable about fame. It is a family saga about love, loss and, ultimately, hope. It triggers deep feelings at visceral levels that aren’t in the game plan for a glittering daydream like Wicked.

This production by the relatively new Ewing Ventures is “high-end” community theater—most actors and musicians are university-trained and have worked professional shows; Bevin Bell-Hall and Jed Dixon do well as the leads. The tight band could handle a Music Circus show. The sound system sometimes muddles the lyrics, but that happens at Broadway Sacramento, too.