It's a bit disappointing to see that next year's schedule at the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre is full of "American classics," tried-and-true titles such as "The Odd Couple" and "The Music Man."
Especially after seeing its masterful storytelling and presentation of the complex, modern Pulitzer Prize-winning musical "Next to Normal," which closes out its 2015 slate.
Admittedly not for everyone, the 2009 three-time Tony-winner is an unflinching look at the bipolar disorder of a suburban wife and mother, and the tragedy that triggered her condition.
New Jersey-based professional actress Daniella Dalli excels as the mother, Diana Goodman. It's not a showy role, but Dalli's nuanced dramatic performance is compelling and all-too-realistic.
Aaron Brakefield is a solid presence as her husband, although his vocal range does come up shorter than what's needed for the character.
Livvy Marcus and Christian Chambers play their children. Marcus — the only performer in all five mainstage shows this summer and excelling in each one — earnestly plays teenager Natalie, talented but troubled and teetering on following in the footsteps of her mother. Chambers plays at times a menacing presence, but has a memorable, tender dance scene with his character's mother.
Jonathan Young is believable as Natalie's boyfriend, a scholar and a stoner. Kris Doss plays two of Diana's doctors, most notably a psychologist "rock star," with accompanying guitar shreds.
"Next to Normal" contains a Big Secret involving one of the characters and in a second time of seeing the musical — the first was a fine performance by The District Theatre in Rock Island nearly three years ago — and knowing the major plot point, it was handled very effectively.
Director Matthew Teague Miller handles the material with grace, nicely segueing from one scene to the next and creating fantasy sequences that don't go overboard.
Steven P. House's multipurpose set design, which resembles a geometric mosaic, is effective and, coupled with James Kyle Davis' lighting design, downright beautiful at times.
Leading a six-piece band backstage, music director Matt Bean's work with the vocalists is mostly favorable. There are no opportunity for flashy vocals here, but since the piece is almost entirely musical, it scores points for effectively telling the story.
Of course next year it'll be nice to visit old friends like Felix and Oscar and Harold Hill on the Showboat. But it would have been nice to meet some newer friends, a la the Goodmans, as well.