September 18, 2013


NEXT TO NORMAL is by Brian Yorkley (book and lyrics) and Music by Tom Kitt. The music throughout is touching and the lyrics tell us the whole story. Here's one of my favorites: "Your'e not a scary rock star anymore." This is a story about a mother who struggles with bipolar disorder. Her illness has torn her family apart. 

The music in the show tells us about issues of loss, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry, and just life in general. The singing calms us down. It flows like honey on the stage. Sure, the Mother Diana Goodman realizes that she is bipolar. The show has won many Awards for outstanding Score and it also received nominations for 'Drama Desk'. And that is exactly what you will get at the Custom Made theatre. I expect that this show in San Francisco will also receive many nominations from the Critics Circle. 

Diana's husband has to deal with his own depression. Natalie (the daughter) meets Henry. They are both young. He Professes his Love for Her. And they kiss for the first time. 

Diana (Mom) treats the family to dinner. ("It's Gonna Be Good"), but when Diana brings out a Birthday cake singing "Happy Birthday" to her son - is a shock to the family. The Son died when he was very young. He died sixteen years ago (Song- "He's not here")

Diana eventually gives in to therapy by Doctor Madden. She's comes out of it alive -- but her memory has left her. Oh, she does remember bits and pieces -- but she will never be the same. 

Diana Broods as she listens to a music box. Some of her memory comes back, but she has a relapse. Diana refuses. Henry awaits to comfort and embrace Natalie. Her father grabs the music box from Diana. 

Henry comes in to sooth Natalie with the song (Hey #3)/"Perfect for you" (reprise.) And it is perfect.  

The score is magical. You respond to it immediately. It's in perfect synch with the plot. The songs are not just any 'songs' but extensions of the characters. It sure as hell brings tears to your eyes. A mere musical phrase or dramatic moment brings out memories of all the times of our lives. 

This is one of the best musical scores around. It brings out many emotions. The entire show is as slick as glass. This Cast Gives a performance of astonishing complexity and passion. They are: Lisa-Marie Newton, Danny Gould, Lamont Ridgell, Mackenzie Cala, Jordon Bridges, Perry Aliado*. 

Amazing Director - Brian Katz. Fantastic Music Director - Armando Fox. Fabulous Set Design - Erik LaDue. Plus - a wonderful Band - Armando Fox/Mark Dietrich (Piano/Conductor) and others.  

And a another treat. At the end - the cast all get together to sing. It's somewhat like "Hair" at the end. 

RATING: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) -trademarked-  



What is so great about this 'Bonnie and Clyde', is that it is played on a stunning stage. The elements all come together as two people (Bonnie and Clyde) are hiding out in a Barn. 

Amazing effects of the lighting boosts sound along with an unusual mixture of humor and fear. It's more than I could have ever imagined. 

Everything about 1930's Depression-era bring out much sadness and playfulness. And meanness. 

This play takes a little artistic license on historical accuracy. The depression look however, is spot on. Of course the real Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were not as attractive as the players on this stage. They are stunning. 

A yes I love you and 'No I don't' story brings Romeo and Juliet to the forefront. There are haunting moments of Ballet -yes, they did some of that, as they carried guns with them. They are hoping that everything will turn out marvelously. Not so. But, they still fancied themselves as Romeo and Juliet. It was a sexy sequence. 

This new take of Bonnie and Clyde -- is brilliant, even though they glide around the Barn doing Ballet. Sweet and Charming -- but you have to remember that they do kill people. This stage presentation is "Very Noir". It's not a film -- but pop-art sensibility. You love em' but they also scare you. 

What we have here, is not the film version of the two gangsters. What we get on the Shotgun Stage is real life brilliance. It's reality in a joyless world. 

The music in the show is wonderful in itself, and wonderfully appropriate. It evokes many dramatic lighting effects, that tell much of the story. 

This is a fast and furious ride. I don't think you've ever seen anything like it.

NOW PLAYING AT THE SHOTGUN PLAYERS (near the Ashby Bart Station)  

Rating: Four glasses of Champagne!!!! -trademarked- 



Play one: 
It's a Psychopathic thriller for the evening. A Google employee dies & goes to heaven. A woman works in the admission office with the now dead - Steve J. Guess what? He invents computer stuff. And even if he is dead now -- he is still making new pads.

Play 2: 
A Former kidnap victim was released after 10 years in a cellar now live with her brother who may have fathered her lost baby. Isn't that fun? 

Play 3: 
You'll really love this one. Of course I also love the one's above -- But you'll get extra love from the Famous Dead Authors that run a Phone Sex Service for Famous Fictional Characters. 
And - oh yes...there is much confusion. And laughter. Put a Quarter in the phone. 

Play 4: 
A Celebrated poem full of familiar quotes by T.S. Elliot is brought dramatically to life. Gee, I hope I can do that. Tee-hee. 

Play 5: 
Two female workers clean up after a high school massacre. One has a crush on the other. They seem a little strange -- maybe Lesbians? Cleaning up after a massacre is more than I can clean up. 

Play 6: 
It is the end of the world. Zombies roam the streets. You know, just like San Franciscans that lean against a Burger King. While a gay couple seeks last therapy session. Confusion ensues.

Here is most of the fantastic Cast. Don't be appalled -- their the TOP! Rem Myers  (Director and Producer. David Myers (Steve Jobs), Wesley Newfarmer (Video Coordinator),
 Grace Ng, Amy Nowak, Madeleine Oldham, (Sound Designer). Michael Phillis (Playwright), Shaun Plander, Tracer Held Potter - Playwright. Scott Ragle (Melvill, Write Dirty to Me). There is more fun at The Tides on Sutter Street Playhouse - 2nd floor. Next: Thursday will be another talented fun-fest on Bay One Acts Festival. WOW! ARE THESE ACTORS INGENIOUS! IT'S A HIGH-OCTANE CIRCUS! IMPRESSIVE in EVERY WAY!

RATING: Four Glasses of Champagne!!!! (highest rating) -trademarked-  

(((Lee Hartgrave has contributed many articles to the San Francisco Sunday Datebook and he also produced a long-running Arts Segment on PBS KQED))) -7-years- 


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