And what keeps the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical from hitting it on the spot is hardly the fault of this staging, which is shaped with sophistication and wit by both director Patrick Fitzwater and a cast who sing the rock score with nimble voices and fiery vibrancy (finer you will not find).
No, the only thing keeping “Next To Normal” flawless-adjacent is the book itself, which late in the second act dissolves its own powerful punch with a few weepy cliches. But up until then, and even afterward, the Tony-Award-magnet-of-a-show grips your heart and caresses your ears for much of the two hours with a 15-minute intermission.
In the show -- on a set reminiscent of a M.C. Escher lithograph -- a family struggles with a whole litany of problems clawing up through the veneer of their nice suburban life. Diana (Sharyn Peoples) is roller-coastered with bi-polar disorder and paralyzing grief. Her soaring ups and manic downs are mediated by her husband Dan (Matthew Korinko) and medicated by her two psychiatrists (both played by Clay Cartland).
Diana and Dan’s teenage daughter Natalie (Anne Chamberlain) is left to emotionally fend for herself with only classmate and potential boyfriend Henry (Jason Edelstein) available for support. Diana’s mired mind and shattered soul is represented by Gabe (Bruno Vida).
Supported by five offstage musicians, the cast members all bring their A-game, each capable of running away with the show (Vida almost does). Evoking the storm clouds of drug abuse, psychiatric ethics, hallucinations and suicide without leaving the audience sobbing on their seatmate’s shoulder is a triumph of the wry and smart performances. And also, no doubt, the nifty and genuinely funny book and score by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey.
“Next To Normal” runs through Nov. 2 at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater, 12811 W. Glades Road. Boca Raton Show times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $40 for adults; $35 for seniors and $25 for students. Call 866-811-4111 or go to SlowBurnTheatre.org.
The show moves Nov. 7-10 to Aventura Arts & Cultural Center, 3385 NE 118th St., Aventura. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $39.50 and $34.50. Call 877-311-7469 or go to AventuraCenter.org.Copyright © 2015, South Florida