Adam Kantor galore - and more!

We've been meaning to write another post on Next to Normal for a while now. What more is there to say about a show that we've blogged about several times (see: Jessica Phillips as Diana, Mr. Bobby Spencer's last weekend with the show, our first time seeing the new cast, our first time seeing Meghann Fahy as Natalie, and Louis Hobson's show at Joe's Pub) and seen many more times, you might ask? Well...a lot. An awful lot. That's the thing that keeps us going back to the Booth time after time, you see (that's directed at you, Mom). But before I get too deeply sentimental over the fact that the Broadway production will close in two short weeks (don't despair, that will get an entire weepy post of its own), here are some highlights from each of the times we took our seats in the Booth this semester.

- The beginning of finals week. Reading day. A tweet from Mr. Adam Kantor, a vacation swing for the show and an actor you may know from playing the final Mark in Rent, informing us that he would be going on as Henry that evening. One of these things does not belong, right? Wrong. We had just enough time to teleport hop in the car and get the city to catch Mr. Kantor's fourth - and final - performance with the show. Having seen both Adam Chanler-Berat and Brian Crum in the role of Henry before, Mr. Kantor stood out as the least "dense" of all the Henrys we've witnessed - he definitely could have gotten into Yale with Natalie. His voice also blended extremely well with the rest of the cast, particularly Jason Danieley on "Why Stay/A Promise" and Meghann Fahy on each of the "Hey"s. During "Superboy and the Invisible Girl," the look on Henry's face as Diana sang the hurtful line, "I love much as I can" to Natalie was both heartbreaking and empowering - it was as if Diana's statement completely affirmed Henry's mission to be there for Natalie, no matter what. We also loved the way he choked up at the beginning of "Hey #3." His exuberant finger-pointing at Natalie on " came!" differentiated the scene from the way Mr. Chanler-Berat and Mr. Crum perform it, but with the same hilarious and aw-inducing results. And when he sang "...'cause crazy IS perfect, and fucked up IS perfect," it really tied his feelings for Natalie back to his reaction in "Superboy." It was an absolute pleasure to see Mr. Kantor's performance, and we were happy to talk with him at the stage door and see how much he appreciated the support.

- The dynamic between so many cast members is simply phenomenal. Kyle Dean Massey and Marin Mazzie share so many beautiful little moments as Gabe and Diana; she fawns over him like the proudest mother in the world, especially during "I Dreamed a Dance," and the fact that she can't feel that way about Natalie is heartbreaking. With Jason Danieley and Meghann Fahy as Dan and Natalie, you really get the sense that they are a father-daughter team within the Goodman family. Even a simple moment during "Better Than Before" when the pair shares some kind of inside joke shows that they have each other's backs. I've also thought a lot lately about Dan acting as Natalie's protector (for instance, after "I've Been," *SPOILER* he hides the bucket of bloody water behind his back so she can't see it, and in "Superboy and the Invisible Girl," Dan hears Diana say, "I love much as I can" to Natalie, and it hurts him deeply). But during "How Could I Ever Forget," when Dan sings about how each doctor failed to diagnose Gabe, you can see Gabe silently pleading, "But you're my DAD - YOU were supposed to protect me!" A heart-wrenching contrast.

- Even the chemistry between Louis Hobson as the Doctors and Ms. Mazzie truly brings out the best in each actor's performance - both the look on Mr. Hobson's face as Ms. Mazzie is "walking" down the stairs in "Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I'm Falling," and his reaction to Diana's proclamation that he is "not a scary rockstar anymore," are priceless.

- When this week's BroadwaySecrets were posted, Hillary immediately texted me to ask if I had submitted one. I had not, in fact, but whoever made this secret perfectly summed up the way we feel about Mr. Danieley's line delivery in the middle of "I Am The One":

- I'm also a fan of the way Mr. Danieley emphasizes the last "I am" in "I Am The One (Reprise)." So powerful.

- Even though we couldn't be more thrilled to catch so many understudies and different takes on each character, it was really great to see Mr. Chanler-Berat back as Henry towards the end of December. I had missed his lead-in to "Perfect for You," when Mr. Chanler-Berat's Henry is the only one to respond to Natalie's line, "You're stoned," with an emphatic nod of the head. Ha.

- After several times watching Kyle Dean Massey during "Just Another Day," I finally confirmed with him that Gabe does, in fact, pull a pack of cigarettes out of his backpack as he gets ready for the day. (Apparently, they are real, and must be replaced every so often so the tabacco doesn't fly everywhere. Who knew.) We thought this was SUPER interesting, because "Just Another Day" is the one time when Gabe is his own person, and not an image of how any of the other characters see him. And in that moment, he chooses to rebel, to be less than perfect.

- Over the past year and a half, Hillary and I may or may not have spent hours analyzing the use of colors in the show...and we may or may not have compiled a chart comparing the costume colors of each character throughout the entire show. Whoops. One of the moments that has always left us mystified is lighting designer Kevin Adams' use of yellow light during only a few isolated points in the show, namely "Catch Me I'm Falling" (on "I'm some Christopher Columbus, sailing out into my mind...") and "Didn't I See This Movie" (on "I'm no sociopath, I'm no Sylvia Plath..."). But we've finally come to the revelation that the yellow lighting takes place during times when Diana experiences fleeting moments of mental clarity, especially as opposed to songs like "You Don't Know/I Am The One" where the stage is lit in deep reds and blues, and Diana is acting on her manic depressive cycles and emotions alone.

- As "I Am The One (Reprise)" begins, it's recently begun to occur to me that maybe Gabe's ultimate mission in haunting Diana is to drive her to leave, so that he can be left alone with Dan and finally be acknowledged by his father. What do you think?

- One week, while waiting in line in the box office for my ticket, I struck up a conversation with the man in front of me who put the thoughts that Hillary and I have been having about the role of Diana into words perfectly. He had seen the show several times, with both the original cast and the replacement cast.

Man: I hate to say it, but- *raises clasped hands to the ceiling* -Sorry, Alice, but Marin is simply fabulous."

In a span of four months since we first saw her performance, Ms. Mazzie has BECOME Diana. She makes different acting choices every time we go, and she cries more and more every time we go, and she's figured out how to tackle the challenging score night after night without damaging her voice, and it's fantastic. She's really come into the role and made it her own.

- Which brings me to the final point of this monstrous post - the current happenings at the Booth Theatre are proof that a replacement cast can be just as good as, if not better than, the originals, even if this is a rare finding in today's environment where stunt casting often overshadows the show itself as it looks to maintain ticket sales. Every member of the current cast - even the two who have been with the show for its entire Broadway run, if not longer - have made the characters their own and kept the show fresh while not losing its powerful themes. We think this can be attributed to the incredible talents of the cast as well as the quality of the show's material and writing. The way in which Hillary and I continue to find poignance in Next to Normal and discover new aspects of its characters, songs, and dialogue after countless viewings is really beyond words, and not something that just any show today can claim.

In all likelihood, our next post about this show we hold so dear to our hearts will come following its closing performance on January 16. Neither of us are ready for what that Sunday will be like, but we'll be there, showing our support, love, and deep, deep gratitude for the once-in-a-lifetime experience we've been through with this show. What more is there to say? If you haven't seen Next to Normal on Broadway, GO. If you have seen Next to Normal on Broadway before, GO AGAIN. (If you can't get to New York, make sure to catch the tour as it criss-crosses North America!) Next to Normal, the little show that could, is going out at the top of its game, and you simply cannot miss it.


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