A Better Broadway At The Quadracci
Get More Out of a Musical With The Rep
The huge crowds that go to touring Broadway shows at the Marcus Center would have a much better time at Next To Normal. There’s a power and an intimacy here that a touring show can’t touch—certainly not one that comes through a huge venue like that Milwaukee Theatre or the Marcus Center’s Uihlein Hall.
I say this having not particularly loved the show myself, but watching this thing, I see at least what those touring Broadway shows are attempting to go for. The high-end production of the piece is a lot of fun to watch. A rock and roll musical about a contemporary suburban family dealing with mental illness, the show won all kinds of awards a couple of years back when it debuted on Broadway. And . . . okay, fine, so it’s not going to necessarily appeal to the Mary Poppins/Andrew Lloyd Webber crowd, but what Director Mark Clements has put together here is capable of doing what no other touring production can do: fit the space. Touring Broadway In A Box shows come one size fits all . . . trailers roll into town. The box s opened. People watch. Everything is packed up and moved along again.
The Milwaukee Rep’s Next To Normal has been handcrafted to fir the space of the Quadracci Powerhouse Theatre. Scenic Designer Todd Edward Ivins’ set is . . . well it’s designed to work with the lighting, which wouldn’t’ve worked had it not been for really spectacular lighting by Jeff Nellis. The really brilliant part of the design here had to be the sound design. Sound Designer Nick Kourtides and company managed to make two guitars and a piano, a violin, a cello, spoken AND singing voices all come together pretty seamlessly onstage without anything ever overpowering anything else. Broadway In A Box productions rely on sound tat almost NEVER comes across without some kind of serious glitch at some point in a performance. Okay, so the occasional dropout or crackle is to be expected in a big, expensive production, but with the prices their charging for tickets for a touring Broadway show, the basics really should be covered much more competently.
I may not have personally loved it, but this is a really solid production. Anyone who loves musical theatre really owes it to themselves to go and see this show. I don’t doubt that this is going to be the single best high-end musical in town this season. If you want to see Mary Poppins, save your money and watch the movie again. (It’s more or less the same thing from what I can gather.) If you want to see a high-end musical theatre drama—see this show. See what it’s like when good money and great production design mix in a musical that isn’t breezing through town in a bunch of boxes. See what it’s like not to get ripped off. Seriously.