I just got back from seeing Next to Normal at Arena Stage , and I’m on the horns of a dilemma. According to the Washington Post, the creative team behind this mounting of the show is taking their work seriously and using time in front of an audience to re-tool the show. As such, they’ve requested that critics not view the show until mid-December.
I certainly don’t want to give Chad Bauman, the very diligent Communications Manager at Arena, another situation that he feels he needs to manage. However, I did pay for a ticket and have some notions to share, so I’ll try to limit my discussion accordingly.
The show is a fascinating portrayal of a woman with mental illness trying to cope and find her way out of the mire. It has a six person ensemble doing protean work, led by the amazing Alice Ripley. After having adored the song in her Kennedy Center concert earlier this season, it was thrilling to seeing Ripley sing I Miss the Mountains in the context of the show (clip of the song). And cabaret singers, especially under-40 female belters who want something contemporary with an edge, should be mining this score for material!
Ron, who isn’t on my Arena subscription, came with me tonight due to the Arena Stage $25 ticket sale. He was seated in row B on the side and said that he couldn’t see most of the action that happened on the second and third level of the stage. I was in row F in the center and had a great view. As this is a problem that I don’t see being resolved no matter how many changes the creative team makes, people who payed full price and are seated close, be warned — you might want to change your seat.* And speaking of Arena’s ticket sale, I was a little surprised to see the number of empty seats that remained in the house, presumably due to the combination of Tuesday night and Thanksgiving week. (According to today’s Post, Arena sold 6,661 tix during the sale.)