Monday, April 4, 2011

REVIEW: Next to Normal (Manila) by Atlantis Productions

Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium (Manila), Saturday March 26

When I bought the Broadway cast recording of Next to Normal, I have no idea what it was about. Upon listening to it, I was surprised and thrilled at how emotionally potent the music was while maintaining a nimble and mixed style of pop, rock, waltz, classical and folk. While the highlight was Alice Ripley’s Diana, I find J. Robert Spencer was miscast as the husband Dan. Spencer’s vocal rendition was too young and similar to Aaron Tveit’s Gabe that it doesn’t make a good and effective listening experience.

That didn’t happen in Atlantis Productions’ Next to Normal. Even when I close my eyes, the characters’ tone and singing were quite distinctive and that was the strength of this production, its totality rather than its parts.

In the original cast recording, Alice Ripley’s Diana was edgy and the signs of her mental illness were apparent in her voice. In this production, Menchu infused the voice of Diana with a bit more of normality, an interesting approach, but not quite as convincing to me. I have seen Menchu performed several times before and has always been a great admirer. While her acting was very effective in this production, her singing never really took flight and I sense a tad of wobble in her voice.

Jett Pangan’s Dan, however, was a revelation. He came a long way since I saw him in Tick, Tick… Boom! and The Rocky Horror Show. His voice has developed tremendously in depth and color, while his acting was never contrive.

Vocally, Felix Rivera’s Gabe was the highlight of the show, but unfortunately, the acting was stylized and one-dimensional. Bea Garcia’s Natalie blended well into the cast, and Markki Stroem’s Henry was a commendable amateur attempt.

While the performances were uneven, the overall effect was not bad at all. Surprisingly, I actually enjoyed it; and that is to Bobby Garcia’s credit. The production, though may not be as sleek as the Broadway version, was versatile and relevant enough to draw audience into the family’s home and witness what they were going through first hand. The company was so earnest in their portrayal that they make me want them to succeed.


Next to Normal
Music by Tom Kitt
Book and Lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Creative Team:
Direction: Bobby Garcia
Musical Staging: Chari Arespacochaga
Musical Director: Ceejay Javier
Production Designer: Lex Marcos
Lighting Designer: Shoko Matsumoto
Costume Designer: Twinkle Zamora

Diana: Menchu Lauchengco-Yulo
Dan: Jett Pangan
Gabe: Felix Rivera
Natalie: Bea Garcia
Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine: Jake Macapagal
Henry: Markki Stroem


At April 4, 2011 at 1:36 AM , OpenID sheilazyx said...

Brian d'Arcy James, the off-B'way Dan, was indeed more suitable.

At April 4, 2011 at 8:49 AM , Blogger SATOSHI said...

Thank you sheilazyx for your comment. Based on the cast recording alone, J. Robert Spencer's participation is the only thing that I feel can be further improved. On stage, however, the shortcoming was less apparent, but I still feel that he was miscast :-)


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