Next to Normal

It was pretty awesome, this musical by Tom Kitt put up by Pangdemonium, a local theatre company.

Liangze had a hard time trying to drag me to go, and I was initially quite averse to the idea, for tickets were really expensive (compared to Broadway/West End, and the quality would definitely not be comparable to those places). We finally settled on the cheapest tickets, which were for the last row of the sneak preview – my rationale being the NatLib Drama Centre is so small anyway, even last row seats are pretty close to the stage (true enough, you could see every twitch of every actor, but not the finer details like their facial expressions, I suppose).

Also musicals aren’t really the sort of thing I enjoy greatly, most of them have weak plots revolving around good triumphing over evil (think Wicked, or better yet, Cats, which has no plot). The music may be great but I don’t think many of them are clever, per se. And you either have to be very technically skilled or extremely witty to entertain me (think Alan Bennett in Seminar). Well thankfully Next to Normal was extremely clever:

I especially liked Julia Abueva’s Everything Else – her voice was pretty strong for that, and I could totally identify with the 7 minutes more for her practice room slot – the best grands in the Lincoln practice rooms were always taken up! (By Asians, of course) and I usually resorted to my CUROSE booking of a Lincoln classroom, which had much better grands anyway. Anyway now instead of an extra good upright I think I’ll go for a cheaper grand instead. I think even if your house is bare, having a good piano will help make all the ugliness go away.

The set was also a pretty good use of their limited space – two storeys, with a well designed bathroom that has the same concept as Aesop in Sydney’s Strand Arcade:

The bathroom of course is where Diane Goodman tries to slit her own wrists so it’s pretty important. It got removed in the second act though. I especially liked the brain and the two outlines of faces, like parentheses, indicating everything that goes on between the two brackets is only happening in the mind. It was pretty mindblowing how they revealed only at the 4th or 5th number that the son (Hartono) was not actually alive – making the audience question their own sanity, and realize that schizophrenia or bipolar disorder is not that far from normal (capitalizing on everyone’s innate egotism that instinctively categorizes themselves as ‘normal’).

Well the band was really tight (and professional too – with great credentials and experience with lots of famous artistes), the piano playing mime was good, the singing not bad (I especially liked Sally Ann Triplett), although she seemed a little hyper – I guess it was the meds, and Adrian Pang, surprisingly, could sing! Well his voice was not terribly musical-ly but it was a solid voice, good for contemplative numbers. I always think of him in channel 8 dramas being the good, single guy with a bad hairdo and extremely ah beng diction. Turns out his normal english is actually with a slight English accent! It was really confusing.

So for the first time in my life, I actually won something in a lucky draw – I did a one question quiz set up by the People’s Association on Pangdemonium and won two tickets to Next to Normal after liangze and I purchased ours!! (Liangze never wins anything either so our combined “bad luck” has thus far prevented us from getting a flat from HDB – the most recent ballot results gave us a 975 queue number with only 922 4 room flats at Telok Blangah. Hopefully 53 applicants drop out of the flat selection process..) Gave the tickets away to charlottido and yiwen in the end!

You can read Matt Lyon’s review of the show here

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