Yes, this is indeed your biweekly blog entry about 'Next To Normal'. I went ahead and saw the newly minted Pulitzer Prize winner again this past Monday and realized something. Due to replacements and understudies- I haven't seen the same cast combination once out of the five times I've seen this show.... that and I forked over more than $300, but I try to think positive.
Since I've always admired the intensity and feistiness Alice Ripley pours into Diana, it was a little jarring when her understudy Jessica Phillips portrays it a little more tame but with a lot more emotions. It took all of the first act for me to get used to Phillips, but as soon as the second act opened up, I was game for her idea of Diana being in a much deeper internal pain. If the rumors are true that Phillips will eventually replace Ripley, I think I'll be okay with it. I can deal with painfully tragic women.
The thing I miss most about Aaron Tveit's version of Gabe is the boyish charms he brings to a rather innocent character, not to mention his confidence on stage commands audience attention. The first time I saw Kyle Dean Massey's Gabe, it was his second show back and he had a cold and sounded nasally- very apparent when he has to go toe-to-toe with Alice Ripley & Bobby Spencer during "You Don't Know/I Am The One". This repeated viewing of a healthier Massey was such a drastic improvement. His Gabe is more haunting and sly, with the sort of charisma necessary for a heartthrob. Maybe it's the way he looks at you with those deep socket eyes like he's trying to undress you and buy you flowers at the same time.
Finally, Dan has always been my favorite character in the show. I love how caring and protective he is of his clan and much of it has to do with Bobby Spencer. He makes my eyes watery every time during "A Light In The Dark" and again during "I Am The One (Reprise)", one time I actually heard half the theatre sobbing during the latter number. The idea of going to see the show again was because Spencer would be departing the production and the man who would be replacing Spencer is the man Spencer himself replaced during the show's transition from Off-Broadway to Broadway, Brian Darcy James- who opted to do 'Shrek: The Musical' instead of this. I've heard good things about James's version of Dan and I look forward to seeing it later this fall/winter.
So am I ready to call 'Next To Normal' my favorite stage production of all-time over 'The Light In The Piazza'? Umm... yes. Yes, I am. Though things might change again whenever Matthew Morrison and Kelli O'Hara decide to share the stage again for my amusement.
Also, believe it or not, another musical that's no longer on Broadway actually got more repeated viewings out of me (Nope, not 'Piazza'), but it's far too embarrassing to admit- even on the interwebs.