“Les Miz” and “Next to Normal”: the Saturday Double-Header

Two full length musicals in one day.  Whew!

“Les Miz” is being presented by the Signature Theater in a large black-box version, which makes it a little more intimate than the big stage versions I have seen several times before.  That’s OK; it worked like a charm, I thought.  The cast was first rate, the direction superb, the set and lighting and music just right.  It was also the first time we saw the new Signature space in Shirlington.  Very classy.

In the afternoon, we had seen a much newer musical, “Next to Normal”, at the Arena Stage at their temporary space in Crystal City, while their new theater is under construction.  I can’t complain about the performance, although I thought that some of the cast was superior to others, and I can’t complain about the staging, which I really like.  I have a problem, however, with depression and depression-caused family stress as a subject of a musical.  A woman traumatized by the death of her 18  month old son 16 years earlier, falls into a depressive stage, a manic-depressive existence, schizophrenia – it’s hard to say exactly what her problem is.  And her husband is beside himself and her daughter hardly recognized because she plays second to the brother she never met.  Etc.

It has received good reviews, and very good word of mouth comments, but it’s just not for me.  But, then, I don’t like dramas based on anything medical:  I don’t watch ET, I couldn’t stand MASH (movie or TV show), and I certainly never wanted to see “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

In between, a nice dinner at the Carlyle Grill in Shirlington.  As always.

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