Friday, February 16, 2024


Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey

Music by Tom Kitt

Director: Christopher Bennie

Musical Director: Jen Hinton

Choreographer: Belinda Hassall

Queanbeyan Players production

Belconnen Community Theatre to 24 February



Reviewed by Len Power 15 February 2024


When a theatre company takes on a project like ‘Next To Normal’, it’s either going to be brilliant or a disaster. This demanding musical about the effects of a mother’s worsening bipolar disorder and the way her family cope with it, needs an unusually sensitive approach as well as very capable musical performers who can sing a taxing musical score and bring these characters and their problems realistically to life.

This powerful rock musical opened on Broadway in 2009.  It won three Tony Awards as well as the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Sarah Hull is excellent as Diana Goodman, the mother suffering from bipolar.  She sings the demanding musical aspects with accuracy and appeal and her vivid acting of the role indicates a deep understanding of the character’s condition.

Sarah Hull (Diana), Kara Murphy (Natalie) and Dave Smith (Dan)

Dave Smith gives a fine performance as her husband, Dan Goodman.  His strong singing and acting abilities show a sensitive and caring man desperately trying to keep the family together as normally as possible through this crisis.

Kara Murphy as their daughter, Natalie Goodman, sings her role with confidence and skill. She achieves a touching performance of a young woman dealing with normal late teenage issues on top of the problems that her mother’s illness presents. John Whinfield as, Henry, gives a sensitive performance of her dependable and often unappreciated boyfriend.

John Whinfield (Henry) and Kara Murphy (Natalie)

In the role of Gabe Goodman, Luke Ferdinands has a strong singing voice and charismatic presence. Andrew Finnegan in the dual role of two doctors is calming and re-assuring but also is unexpectedly alarming in certain moments of the treatment of the illness.  Both actors handle the musical demands of the score very well.

There is a large amount of music and singing in this show. Musical Director, Jenn Hinton, has done a fine job in preparing the cast vocally for this show and conducting the musicians during the performance.

The excellent sound designer, James McPherson of Eclipse, has ensured that the sound is clear and well-balanced.  It’s particularly important that every word of this show can be heard.

Christopher Bennie, Jenn Hinton and Belinda Hassall have worked with a strongly successful vision and in the program they are listed as ‘Creative Team’. Surely all other crew members like costume, lighting and sound designers etc. are a part of that creative team, too?

A musical about a family trying hard to cope when one of them is suffering from bipolar disorder maybe doesn’t sound like a fun evening or even an attractive subject for a musical, but you really can’t afford to miss this sensitive, entertaining, at times funny and thoughtful production.


Photos by Ben Appleton – Photox Photography

Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at