Saturday, August 21, 2010

Next to Normal - Replacement Cast

Don’t get us wrong. “Next to Normal” is still the most daring, original and haunting new musical on Broadway. And it has the potential to live on without Alice Ripley in the role of Diana Goodman. But Marin Mazzie, although an excellent actress and singer, is just plain wrong as a replacement for Ripley.

One year ago, it was considered a risky gamble to bring this pop-rock musical about a bipolar-depressive mother who suffers hallucinogenic episodes and undergoes shock therapy to Broadway. Nevertheless, “Next to Normal” has become both a popular and critical success. It even won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Alice Ripley ripped through the role of Diana Goodman like a force of nature, carrying an electrifying and urgent intensity. But at the same time, she displayed a childlike fragility that made her performance thoroughly believable and heartbreaking.

Marin Mazzie lacks the unpredictable spark that Ripley brought to the character. By portraying Diana as more depressed than manic, Mazzie is less theatrical and interesting to watch. Moreover, Mazzie’s powerful voice is better suited for classical musical theater than Tom Kitt’s modern rock music.

Jason Danieley, who is Mazzie’s real-life husband and is also playing her husband in the show, is noticeably stiff and still finding his way around the role, which is ill-suited to his golden tenor voice.

The rest of the cast is fine. And on the whole, “Next to Normal” still makes for compelling theater. But for those who saw Alice Ripley, it’s hard to ignore what’s been lost in transition.

“Next to Normal” plays an open run at the Booth Theatre.
222 W. 45t St., 212-239-6200, nexttonormal.com.

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