Pangdemonium Productions took a huge gamble by taking on such a tragic and yet inspiring piece. So hit me on the back and scream jackpot because we’re pretty sure they pulled off Next To Normal almost flawlessly.
Here’s the scene – a prototypical American family who at first appears to live a fairly normal life but when a drop of mental illness is added into the concoction, it definitely mixes up musical theatre with a dash of realist theatre. Next To Normal, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize, was able to take a real life problem and heighten the emotions through unconventional rock music while retaining the veracity, truth and agony of the actual situation. With thirty songs squeezed within two hours and almost no spoken dialogue, everyone should understand that Next To Normal is a challenging adaption to take on and with that, here’s my second round of applause to the director, Tracie Pang, and the rest of the cast and crew.
Although (I did say almost flawless), one of the only problems that really struck me during the run was how generic some of the characters were – especially the wife Diana (West End star Sally Ann Triplett – Chicago, Cabaret, Mama Mia!) and her husband Dan (Adrian Pang – Pangdemonium’s Rabbit hole, Swimming With Sharks). There was just this copy and paste, clip-art sort of feel to their characters. It didn’t help that some of the signs of the mental illness during the show was when Diana brought out a birthday cake for a missing family member seemed extremely run-off-the-mill. Needless to say, the poignant musical did strike something in me although I did hope to connect with the characters a little more.
Sadly enough, the Next To Normal run is over but if their next production is anything close to being on par with this production then yes, I’d completely recommend watching Pangdemonium’s next play – Gruesome Playground Injuries.
So if you’re into rom-coms, dark comedy and horror, then watching what the British Theatre Guide describes as “a sweet delicate and very funny play” will be exactly what you want.
“Written by Pulitzer Prize finalist Rajiv Joseph, in Gruesome Playground Injuries we follow Kayleen (Seong Hui Xuan – Pangdemonium’s Rabbit Hole) and Doug (Alan Wong – The MTV show) from age 8 to 38, leaping back and forth over the course of their lives in a deliriously disjointed time-continuum. Doug is full of life and absurdly ‘accident-prone’; while Kayleen hates her life and hides a painful secret. As they careen and collide into and out of each other’s live and they become damaged goods for life, but are forever bonded together by bloodstains broken bones and bandages.”
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Photo credit: Pangdemonium Productions