Overblown production
with great meaning but little heart

“I don’t need a life that’s normal,
That’s way too far away.
But something next to normal,
Would be okay”

Natalie singing to her mother, Diana  (from the song ‘Maybe’)


Eleanor Worthington- Cox as Natalie and Caissie Levy as Diana. (Photo: Mark Levy)

Not subjects you’d instantly associate with a musical, but that’s not dissuaded the creators of Next To Normal, a rock musical which tackles all of these subjects head on.  The story centres around an All-American family – mother, father, son and daughter. Except all is not as it initially seems.

It’s 4am. Diana (Caissie Levy)  is up, waiting anxiously for her son, Gabe (Jack Wolfe), who’s missed curfew, for the multiple time this week. Their daughter, Natalie (Eleanor Worthington-Cox), is also awake, in a panic revising for a host of tests. The initial sheen of happy families rapidly slips away, and we realise that this is a fractured family unit dealing with the fallout of chronic mental illness.

Caissie Levy as Diana (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Diana has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, but it’s extreme and it’s taking its toll on the family. Her husband, Dan (Jamie Parker), is valiantly trying to hold the family together but it’s all falling apart. As Diana switches between medications and therapists, her moods varyingly improve or deteriorate but both leave their impact on the family. Dan becomes increasingly frustrated with not knowing how his wife will be and how to engage with her. Natalie becomes increasingly distant and, through a new relationship, which opens her up to engaging with drugs, starts a journey that eerily mirrors her mother’s own. And Diana’s solace through it all, Gabe, is noticeably selective in his presence.

Next To Normal tells a powerful story and addresses the wider implications of an often-hidden subject. It shows how mental disorders not only impact the sufferer but also, and probably more so, those around them. This is a raw and visceral production that works, unfortunately, only in parts.

Eleanor Worthington-Cox as Natalie and Jack Ofrecio as Henry. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

The cast, who have all reprised their roles from last year’s original Donmar Warehouse production, excel across the board. The performances are anchored by Caissie Levy, whose portrayal of a woman in the turmoil of extreme mental illness is energetic but constrained. Eleanor Worthington-Cox’s Natalie mirrors that energy but in a more anarchic and unbridled way that focuses on the anger and pain she’s going through. And Jamie Parker is wonderfully frustrated and equally hopeless as the husband struggling under the pressure of it all.

Chloe Lamford’s minimalist set is the perfect backdrop for this, being impactful and practical but keeping your attention where it needs to be, on the cast. But the problem lies with the underlying narrative and the supporting music. The story is, without doubt, impactful, but is surprisingly unengaging. In covering so much, the core plot and the various sub plots of each of the characters, there’s no nuance in the narrative. Everything is laid down brashly in front of you. As a result, there’s little emotional engagement with the characters and the whole thing feels disturbingly voyeuristic.

Jack Wolfe as Gabriel. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

This is further compounded by the soundtrack which becomes more of a distraction than engaging. There are some good songs in the mix but for the main they take away from the flow of the piece. Worst of all, however, is that they’re delivered with the power of a monster truck. Everything is, as Spinal Tap would say, turned up to 11 and it all feels very shouty. This is bearable when one person is singing, but with the whole cast going at it, it become a cacophony.

Michael Longhurst’s direction is equally on the nose, removing any subtly and nuance from what may be possible with the script. There’s just too much singing while staring aimlessly into the audience, as if looking into our eyes will help us feel more connected to what’s going on.

The is a powerful and important story that needs to be told and should be seen. The performances are mesmeric, but a cumbersome script and overblown musical performances leaves you feeling informed but, unfortunately, not engaged.

Cast in Next to Normal (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Musical Numbers

Act One

“Prelude (Light)”

“Just Another Day”

“Everything Else”

“Who’s Crazy” / “My Psychopharmacologist and I” 

“Perfect for You” 

“I Miss the Mountains” 

“It’s Gonna Be Good” 

“He’s Not Here” 

“You Don’t Know” 

“I Am the One”

“Superboy and the Invisible Girl” 

“I’m Alive” 

“Make Up Your Mind” / “Catch Me I’m Falling”  

“I Dreamed a Dance”

“There’s a World”

“I’ve Been”

“Didn’t I See This Movie?” 

“A Light in the Dark” 

Act Two

“Wish I Were Here” 

“Song of Forgetting” 

“Hey #1” 

“Seconds and Years” 

“Better Than Before” 


“Hey #2” 

“You Don’t Know” (Reprise) 

“How Could I Ever Forget?” 

“It’s Gonna Be Good” (Reprise) 

“Why Stay?” / “A Promise” 

“I’m Alive” (Reprise)

“The Break” 

“Make Up Your Mind” / “Catch Me I’m Falling” (Reprise) 

“Maybe (Next to Normal)” 

“Hey #3” / “Perfect for You” (Reprise) 

“So Anyway” 

“I Am the One” (Reprise) 


Production Notes

Next to Normal

Music by Tom Kitt

Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Directed by Michael Longhurst



Jamie Parker

Caissie Levy

Eleanor Worthington-Cox

Jack Wolfe

Trevor Dion Nicholas

Jack Ofrecio


Director: Michael Longhurst

Designer: Chloe Lamford

Lighting Designer: Lee Curran

Sound Designer: Tony Gayle

Musical Supervisor: Nigel Lillley

Movement and Choreography: Ann Yee

Orchestrations: Michael Starobin and Tom Kitt

Video Design:  Tal Rosner

Musical Director: Nick Bairstow


Two hours and 30 minutes with an interval

Booking to 21st September 2024


Wyndhams Theatre

Charing Cross Road

London WC2H 0DA

Telehone: 0844 482 5151

Tube: Leicester Square

Telephone: 0344 871 7628

Website: https://www.wyndhamstheatre.co.uk/


Reviewed by Sonny Waheed

on 26th June 2024

Trevor Dion Nicholas as the Doctor, Jamie Parker as Dan and Caissie Levy as Diana (Photo: Marc Brenner)