Next to Normal at Arena

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.)

*In the one item of the show that I pray gets re-thought, people in the center section, rows B through D, seem to be getting an eyeful of the leading lady’s nether areas while she’s sitting in a chair in an above-the-knee, A-line skirt.  Or was it the costume department trying to viscerally demonstrate her vulnerability?

3 Responses to Next to Normal at Arena

  1. violetdaisy says:

    Unless the costumes have changed THAT much (as in the skirt has shortened even more) it’s not a problem. I saw it 14 times in NYC, and seeing up the skirt was never an issue.

    I’m seeing it at Arena in 17 days… I’m guessing the seats there must be closer to the stage or the stage must not be as deep because there wasn’t a huge problem with seeing second floor action at 2econd Stage ~ and really not much at all happened on the third level.

    Still VERY excited to see it again!!!!!!!!! (Well, kind of again since there have been changes…but so far I love what I’m hearing!)

  2. Ron Squeri says:

    violetdaisy -I was sitting at the stage-left side in row B, and I was somewhat distracted by the skirt issue. From my vantage point, the second level past the downstage 3 feet of the set center stage on the second level was non-visible. I only realized this when I was walking back to my seat after intermission. Looking back, I wish I had the intelligence to have moved to the back center of the audience which, unfortuantaely for Arena, was empty. To be fair, the vantage point from my seat is not where the creative team usually views rehearsals, so these items may not have been noticed.

    I, too, can’t wait to see this show again. later in the run. The performances were amazing. I commend you for seeing it 14 times. I just don’t have the requisite energy. It is a powerful show, and I was exhausted for the actors, who, as Michael said did a herculean job.

  3. violetdaisy says:

    Ron ~ Sorry, just seeing this. I found the set up remarkably like Second Stage other than Second Stage has enormously raked seating. I guess it just wasn’t something I noticed before ~ more focused on faces or something. The stge seemed more shallow at Arena, so that’s weird. Sad, but weird.

    Anyway… As I’d promised… A link to my random and slightly incoherent thoughts since I finally saw it yesterday. http://violetdaisy.wordpress.com/2008/12/07/better-than-before/

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