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next to normal
Playhouse on the Square, Memphis, TN

  • “The challenge for the musical next to normal is to wring some beauty out of the story of a family devastated by mental illness. It's not what you'd think would make for a scintillating evening at the theater, although the Playhouse production is smartly done and carried by good performances.”

    “Director Gary John La Rosa has done a fine job of staging next to normal, allowing seamless movement and encouraging a tight production. The details are well considered throughout, from the contemporary set design to costuming to lighting.”


    “Renee Kemper's music direction is splendid as usual with the orchestra perfectly balanced behind the action. But if the music doesn't give the actors much to play with, at least the cast does a solid job. Leah Bray Nichols holds the story together as Diana, the troubled bipolar woman who wants to please everyone but can't control her delusions or mania. The reliable David Foster does good work as her husband, Dan, who loves Diana but is baffled by how to act or what to do. Kelsey Hopkins is terrific as the daughter Natalie: smart, perplexed and seeming to be following in her mother's footsteps. Hopkins does nuanced work that allows her character's complexity to shine through.”


    “The musical won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, perhaps for daring subject matter although it's not a particularly brilliant or creative look at mental illness. Still, there are some exquisite moments, and certainly this production is well-staged and a worthy entertainment.”

    Jon W. Sparks
    Commercial Appeal