Theater Review / Family problems surface in musical


“Next to Nothing,” playing at the Ahmanson Theatre, is a “love it or leave it” kind of musical. Those who enjoy rock music will appreciate the originality of the production as well as the acting and storyline. Others, like myself, will find the constant drum-pounding, soul-searching and psychological sessions tiresome after a time.

Alice Ripley is deserving of the accolades she has received for her acting as a wife and mother with extreme mental problems. Her slow decline toward insanity naturally has its effect on the family and one can certainly empathize with their plight.

Her husband, played with insight by Asa Somers, is steadfast and true but coping becomes a harrowing experience. Their daughter, a teenager, needs comfort and guidance but is frustrated by the irrational acts of her mother. Only their son seems to be able to adjust to the situation. The two actor children, Emma Hunton and Curt Hansen, are excellent.

The music by Tom Kitt is performed by a seven-person band led by Bryan Perri. In operatic style, the clever lyrics by Brian Yorkey keep on coming. The production is aided by an inventive set, seemingly constructed like an Erector toy. Director Michael Greif makes good use of the steps and ladders.

“Next to Normal” won the Pulitzer Prize for tackling a difficult subject with honesty and style. However, the rock musical is not for everyone.