Everything you need to know about 'Next to Normal'

Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal plays a strictly limited run in the West End this summer. Read our guide to learn more about this unique show.

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

Originally staged on Broadway in 2009, UK audiences had to wait almost 15 years to see Tom Kitt and Brian’s Yorkey’s impassioned Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal. Happily, Michael Longhurst’s production was well worth the wait when it was presented at the intimate Donmar Warehouse in summer 2023.

The show about a mother diagnosed with bipolar disorder returns for a strictly limited 14-week run starting this June, this time in the West End, allowing a greater number of people to experience its power.

Our critic for London Theatre noted that “the show really puts you through the wringer in its raw depiction of mental illness and family disconnection. But this courageous and deeply moving piece provides ecstasy as well as agony, light as well as darkness.” They also praised “the inventive score [which] gives us welcome tonal shifts – from heart-pounding rock opera (shades of RENT and Spring Awakening) to a wistful waltz or a vivid black-comic set-piece.”

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What is Next to Normal about?

Next to Normal tells the story of Diana Goodman, a suburban wife and mother who suffers from bipolar disorder and is haunted by the loss of her infant son.

The effects on her family have been profound. Her doctors suggests hypnosis and Electric Convulsive Therapy in an attempt to manage her condition. The show's themes include mental health, grief, medical ethics, suburban malaise, and attempting to define what “normal” is.

When can I see Next to Normal?

Next to Normal is booking for a 14-week run from 18 June – 21 September 2024. The show plays eight shows a week, with matinee performances on Thursdays.

Which theatre is Next to Normal playing at?

Next to Normal is playing at Wyndham’s Theatre, a lovely mid-sized venue near Leicester Square Station.

Recent productions at Wyndham’s include The Unfriend, Kenneth Branagh’s King Lear, and Daniel Fish’s production of Oklahoma!. Next to Normal will be preceded by Long Day’s Journey into Night, another challenging family drama starring Succession's Brian Cox.

Major productions of Next to Normal

The show was originally presented Off Broadway and in Virginia, and was first performed on Broadway in 2009. The cast included Alice Ripley as Diana, J. Robert Spencer as Dan, Aaron Tveit as Gabe, and Jennifer Damiano as Natalie. It was directed by Michael Greif. The production played for 21 previews and 733 regular performances. The Broadway production toured in 2010-11, and original productions have been produced nationwide.

The first non-English production was performed in Oslo in 2010, and productions have been staged in the Philippines, China, Peru, Australia, the Netherlands, and many other countries.

The Donmar Warehouse's 2023 revival of Next to Normal was also the show's UK premiere. The original Donmar cast will reprise their roles at Wyndham's Theatre.

What awards has Next to Normal won?

Next to Normal won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. It also received 11 Tony nominations and won Best Original Score, Best Actress, and Best Orchestrations.

The musical was recently nominated for six WhatsOnStage Awards and won Best Supporting Performer in a Musical (Jack Wolfe). The Olivier Award nominations have yet to be announced but we’re sure it won’t go unrecognised.

Who stars in the West End production?

The whole cast of the Donmar Warehouse production will reprise their roles for the West End production. The lead role of Diana is played by Broadway star Caissie Levy. Levy created the role of Molly in the Broadway production of Ghost the Musical and Elsa in the Broadway production of Frozen. She has also starred as Elphaba in Wicked, and appeared in Caroline or Change (directed by Michael Longhurst) and Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt.

Diana's husband, Dan, is played by Jamie Parker, best known for creating the role of Scripps in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys (which he reprised in the screen version) and the title role in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in the West End and on Broadway (earning him an Olivier Award win and Tony nomination). Parker’s musical theatre credits include Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls in the West End, Mike in High Society at the Old Vic, and the title role in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button at Southwark Playhouse.

They are joined by Jack Wolfe and Eleanor Worthington-Cox as their children Gabe and Natalie. Wolfe’s television credits include Hetty Feather and Shadow & Bone and he has performed with the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company. He won Broadway World and WhatsOnStage Awards for his performance as Gabe, and he was nominated for an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Emerging Talent.

One of the West End’s original stars of Matilda, Worthington-Cox is the youngest-ever Olivier Award winner. Her recent stage credits include Jerusalem in the West End and The Secret Life of Bees at the Almeida. On screen, she has starred in Hetty Feather and Britannia, and she was nominated for a BAFTA TV Award for her performance in The Enfield Haunting.

American actor Trevor Dion Nicholas plays the dual roles of shrinks Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine. Nicholas created the showstopping role of the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin in the West End and has played George Washington in Hamilton. Newcomer Jack Ofrecio completes the cast as Natalie’s boyfriend Henry.

Who wrote Next to Normal?

The writers are Tom Kitt (music) and Brian Yorkey (lyrics). Aside from Next to Normal, the duo have collaborated on If/Then (2014, starring Idina Menzel), Freaky Friday (2016), and The Visitor (2021).

Separately, Kitt wrote the music for High Fidelity (2006), Bring It On with Lin-Manuel Miranda (2011), and Flying Over Sunset (2021). Yorkey was Associate Artistic Director of Seattle’s Village Theatre for many years, where he was closely involved in the Village Originals programme that develops new musicals. He also collaborated with Sting and John Logan on The Last Ship (2014).

Who is in the Next to Normal creative team?

The production is directed by Michael Longhurst, who will shortly leave his role as artistic director of the Donmar Warehouse after five years. His productions at the Donmar have included Private Lives starring Stephen Mangan and Rachael Stirling; Henry V starring Kit Harington; and the UK premiere of the musical The Band’s Visit.

Other productions include Caroline or Change in the West End and on Broadway; Constellations at the Royal Court, West End and on Broadway (for which Longhurst won an Olivier Award for Best Director for his post-Covid remounting with multiple starry casts); and Amadeus, which played two runs at the National Theatre.

The production is designed by Chloe Lamford, whose credits include Phaedra, Othello, and* Amadeus* (National Theatre). Movement, choreography, and additional direction is by Ann Yee, who has worked extensively in theatre and opera, including South Pacific (Sadler’s Wells), Rusalka (Royal Opera House), and Caroline or Change (Broadway). The production also features lighting by Lee Curran, sound design by Tony Gayle, musical direction by Nick Barstow, and casting by Anna Cooper.

Who are the characters in Next to Normal?

The show follows the Goodman family:

Diana Goodman: the protagonist. Diana is sharp and witty and suffers from bipolar disorder.

Dan Goodman: her long-suffering husband, longing for a “perfect” family. He also suffers from depression.

Gabe: their son who died as a baby and appears in Diana’s visions.

Natalie: their highly-strung, overachieving 16-year-old daughter.

Henry: Natalie’s boyfriend, a philosopher, and weed smoker.

Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine: Diana’s psychiatrists, with on-the-nose names. Both are played by the same actor.

What songs are in Next to Normal?

The score comprises the following songs:

Act I

"Prelude" – Orchestra
"Just Another Day" – Diana, Natalie, Gabe, Dan
"Everything Else" – Natalie
"Who's Crazy" / "My Psychopharmacologist and I" – Dan, Diana, Doctor Fine
"Perfect for You" – Henry, Natalie
"I Miss the Mountains" – Diana
"It's Gonna Be Good" – Dan, Gabe, Natalie, Henry, Diana
"He's Not Here" – Dan
"You Don't Know" – Diana
"I Am the One" – Dan, Gabe, Diana
"Superboy and the Invisible Girl" – Natalie, Diana, Gabe
"I'm Alive" – Gabe
"Make Up Your Mind" / "Catch Me I'm Falling" – Doctor Madden, Diana, Dan, Natalie, Gabe, Henry
"I Dreamed a Dance" – Diana, Gabe
"There's a World" – Gabe
"I've Been" – Dan, Gabe
"Didn't I See This Movie?" – Diana
"A Light in the Dark" – Dan, Diana

Act II

"Wish I Were Here" – Diana, Natalie, Gabe
"Song of Forgetting" – Dan, Diana, Natalie
"Hey #1" – Henry, Natalie
"Seconds and Years" – Doctor Madden, Dan, Diana
"Better Than Before" – Doctor Madden, Dan, Natalie, Diana
"Aftershocks" – Gabe, Diana
"Hey #2" – Henry, Natalie
"You Don't Know - Reprise” – Diana, Doctor Madden
"How Could I Ever Forget?" – Diana, Dan
"It's Gonna Be Good - Reprise” – Dan, Diana
"Why Stay?" / "A Promise" – Diana, Natalie, Dan, Henry
"I'm Alive - Reprise” – Gabe
"The Break" – Diana
"Make Up Your Mind" / "Catch Me I'm Falling - Reprise” – Doctor Madden, Diana, Gabe
"Maybe (Next to Normal)" – Diana, Natalie
"Hey #3" / "Perfect for You - Reprise” – Henry, Natalie
"So Anyway" – Diana
"I Am the One - Reprise” – Dan, Gabe
"Light" – Natalie, Dan, Diana, Henry, Doctor Madden, Gabe

Fun facts about Next to Normal

  • Next to Normal is the eighth musical to be honoured with a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Its predecessor, Rent, was also directed by Next to Normal's Broadway director Michael Greif.
  • In 2021, the show’s songs featured in a musical special of TV show Riverdale.
  • Watch and listen carefully for references to The Bell Jar, The Catcher in the Rye, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and other books and films that explore mental health.

How do I book tickets for Next to Normal?

Last year’s run of Next to Normal at the Donmar Warehouse sold out in record time and demand for tickets in the West End is bound to be high.

Book Next to Normal tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Next to Normal. (Photo by Marc Brenner)

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