The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Next to Normal
Organization Stand Out Talent
Date(s) of show January 20-29, 2012
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb
Review Itís such a pity this show doesnít have a longer run. Surely, if word got out about the quality of the production, it would be able to continue to draw audiences. Last night, my fellow audience members, even though they only half-filled the theater, jumped to their feet in applause at the end. And well they might because it was an excellent show.

First, there was the music. Itís accurate to describe Next to Normal as a rock opera, and the 6-piece band (which included a violin and cello) definitely rocked under the direction of David Blanchard. The highlight, though, was the professional-quality singing of the 6-member cast. The songs themselves were eminently listenable, and I found myself humming tunes during the intermission and as I left the theater. Itís worth noting that a lot of the singing was in duets or occasionally larger ensembles, and at these spots the blend of the voices gave a satisfying richness to whatever emotion was being conveyed. Besides this, some of the numbers were real show-stoppers that Iíd love to see again and again.

Most importantly, the acting was top-notch. Iíve seen nearly all these people perform before, but this was easily among the best acting (and singing) that Iíve witnessed from each of them. The story requires a wide emotional range and a lot of nuance Ė and they gave it. The influence of the director can be seen in the acting, but the staging itself was inspired. Despite the sparseness of props and set, this production was a visual feast: the rich crafting of each scene drew us audience members into the action and added to the effectiveness of the acting and singing. Stand Out Talent was fortunate to have LA-based Danny Gurwin to direct this show.

With a warning that it wouldnít be suitable for children under 13, and that it would deal with dark themes of mental illness, drug abuse, etc., I fear some potential audience members may have stayed away. What a mistake. Though it deals with some serious themes, there is a lot of joy and good feeling in this story, and it is so substantial that itís easy to see why it was a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winner. Hats off to Stand Out Talent for tackling it and delivering such a high-quality show.

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