Grover Theatre Company
Until 25 March 2023
By Matthew Sheahan
I had the absolute privilege of seeing Grover Theatre Company’s production of Next To Normal which was staged as a concert rather than the full staging of the show. From the moment I walked in I felt the concert vibe, with the band at the back of the stage all dressed in black and the chairs all lined up with microphones at the front of the stage. I wasn’t quite sure how the show would be done in this way but from the very beginning I was completely hooked, for anyone who knows “Next To Normal” would know the content is pretty confronting as it deals with mental health and it’s affect on the individual and the people around them.
To the cast, starting with Hannah Bird as Diana. Hannah’s performance was heartfelt and at times gut-wrenching, delivering the entire show’s heavy music with the grit and pain that it requires and I know I was shedding a tear. Luke Peverelle as Diana’s husband Dan was incredibly emotional and you could feel the pain in every word he sang, I must say this is probably one of the best performances I’ve seen Luke deliver, having known him for a while now.
Next is Kristen Ryan as Natalie. Again, another stellar performance from Kristen who sang and acted the role with the anger, frustration and confusion of a teenage girl dealing with a mentally ill mother. I especially loved Kristen’s performance of “Super Boy and the Invisible Girl”.
Jordan Shome as the deceased son Gabe had a shake in his voice that triggered many emotions as you could feel the destruction and anguish he had been through when talking to his parents as the ghost character. As the show went you could feel the tension in Jordan’s performance only get stronger and stronger right up until the end.
As Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend, Andrew Vassett again shows incredible emotion when singing about Henry’s feelings for Natalie and I could feel his concern and care for her all the way through.
Finally as Dr Madden, Benjamin Lee, whose performance was funny (when it needed to be) and very arrogant (also when it needed to be) and I thought Benjamin’s voice was perfect for the role and matched well especially with Hannah Bird’s voice when they were duetting and singing harmonies together.
All in all the cast were fantastic when they sang as a group and all the harmonies were on pitch which made this magnificent score, played by the amazing band under the musical direction of Kristie Thai and very hard working band shine even brighter. Even with just the concert staging and not the full scale show, the story was told and the point was well and truly got across. I definitely encourage smaller theatre to take on this type of staging with the right show as Grover Theatre company have very much proved.
About the Author
Matthew Sheahan is an active performer on the community theatre scene having performed in musical theatre for almost 20 years all over Melbourne. He is also a vocal coach and has also written and performed his own cabaret shows.
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