Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Posts Tagged ‘next to normal

Somethings that Make Me Tear Up Everytime

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So, I’ll be honest with you. I’m a person who is pretty dead when it comes to being emotional in front of people. Part of this may be due to my raising because in the south boys aren’t supposed to cry. Part of it may also because I am just a person who understands that there is a time and a place for emotions. For example, I don’t think that everyone should share the dirty laundry of their break up with people that they might at best consider acquaintances. It’s just a thing. Perhaps, I suffer alone without rhyme or reason. I don’t know. However, I will continue to do such because it’s ingrained in my nature now.

There are a couple of things that get me every time though. Both of them are musicals. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, music is the great emotional manipulator in my mind. Why? It mixes the strong emotions of the world with music.

 I am a sucker for music. It is a great love of mine. I love music from classical to contemporary because it hits on so many levels within my psyche. It manipulates me like no person will ever be able to. I am a wimp when it comes to musical manipulation or surprises (don’t get me started on this…the end of Atonement , a movie, and Next to Normal, a musical).

The main things that get me are musicals. It’s because of the music. It’s the one thing that will get me time after time. It breaks down all the barriers and makes me feel at ease before it shatters the barriers that I put up to contain my emotional baggage.

Recently, there have been two musicals that have done this to me. Next to Normal and Les Miserables cause me much grief as I listen to the beautiful heartache that is contained within the melodies and harmonies of each. They each have a great overarching story that makes me sad (what with a bipolar mother and the effects on the family and the French Revolution). However, each of them presents their sad tale in the form of a musical drama. This is the worst/best part for me. I love the music of each musical (matter-of-factly, N2N is brilliant across the board musically).

They set me at ease and then take me into the depths of despair. They each leave me with hope and allow me to face emotions that I would never think about pouring myself into. They make me think which is pretty phenomenal for anything that is supposed to be as superficial and candied as a musical. I find myself starting to get into the action and feel with the characters every time with these two musicals. Quite frankly, I suggest that if you haven’t heard/seen them that you do so as soon as possible because they are an experience not to be trifled with.

Better Than Before (*Spoiler Alert*)

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So, I think I’ve already talked about this in some capacity, but I am going to rehash it now…so, yeah…The musical Next to Normal is brilliant. A friend and I were discussing it into the wee hours of the morning a couple of weeks back, and we both agreed that it would probably be on our respective iPods for many, many months to come. If you know us, this would make more sense. You see there are musicals and artists that go in and out of vogue for us as the mood strikes. Right now, I’m in a Les Miserables mood with a touch of 90’s music on the side.

The song from this show that I am recently infatuated with is actually two songs. However, I consider them one because they bleed into each other so perfectly. “Better than Before” and “Aftershocks” would be these two songs.  The song “Better than Before” is a happy melodic piece until the very end. The family is talking about how after Diana’s electro-shock therapy they will be better than they were. However, the end of the song hits very minor chords and harmonies which indicate that everything isn’t okay.

This idea is then expounded by the song “Aftershocks” which shows that everything is not okay. Gabe, the dead son/hallucination, sings that although he may be gone for now he can never be completely gone. This is the genius of the musical. It builds complex ideas and imagery into the chord construction and structure of the songs themselves. It’s quite beautiful and shows a lot of thought on the part of the composer and lyricist.

It just goes to show that creativity and interesting ideas are still out there. Like I said, this musical will be on my iPod for many months to come. I believe it should be on yours too.

Written by uncannynerdyguy

May 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

“I’ve Been”

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A song from the musical Next to Normal taking place after (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Dan’s wife tries to commit suicide. It is very poignant and gives the audience a peek into Dan’s psyche which is interesting. However, it also pertains to anyone who has ever been in a relationship whether it be friendship or otherwise. It speaks to the inner parts of us as humans because we “could never be alone.”

Dan:
Standing in this room,
Well I wonder what comes now.
I know I have to help her,
But hell if I know how.
And all the times that I’ve been told
The way her illness goes.
The truth of it is no one really knows.
And every day this act we act gets more and more absurd.
And all my fears just sit inside me, screaming to be heard.
I know they won’t, though, not a single word.
I was here at her side
When she called, when she cried.
How could she leave me on my own?
Will it work, this cure?
There’s no way to be sure.
But I’m weary to the bone
And whenever she goes flying
I keep my feet right on the ground.
Oh now I need a lift
And there’s no one around.

Hey!

Gabe:
Hey!

Dan and Gabe:
Ohhh

(Together)
Dan:
Ahhh oooh
No

Gabe:
Ahh oooh
No

Dan:
And I’ve never had to face the world without her at my side.
Now I’m strolling right beside her as the black hole opens wide.
Mine is just a slower suicide.
I’ve been her for the show,
Every high, every low.
But it’s the worst we’ve ever known.
She’s been hurt, and how?
But I can’t give up now.
‘Cause I’ve never been alone.
I could never be alone.

It expresses the fears of someone who is about to embark on a new part of life whether it be forced or no, and the fears that they feel as a result. It speaks to the inner parts of all people…Also, it is just a beautiful song sung by the incredible J. Robert Spencer. Enjoy the song…and the meaning behind it.

Written by uncannynerdyguy

May 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I Miss the Mountains: Spoiler Alert

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In the show Next to Normal (N2N), Alice Ripley’s character Diana sings a song called “I Miss the Mountains” in which she talks about missing the pain that she had when she wasn’t in a drug induced stupor. She talks about when she was younger and how she misses the woman that she used to be. Yesterday, while at dinner with some of my friends, we were discussing N2N and this song came up. I was saying that I enjoyed the songs that Diana sings because 1: they’re beautiful and 2: they’re in my range if I sing them in lower octaves (I’m a baritone and the men in the show are all pretty tenortastic).

One of my friends who is familiar with the musical as well, we actually saw it as a group in NYC, made the comment that the song doesn’t fit with the overarching musical feel of the show. It is a rock opera, and this number feels very much like a power ballad…not very rock opera-y.  It doesn’t rely on the drum set or the electric guitar to convey the emotion…it mainly uses Alice Ripley’s voice and a few softer toned instruments like the piano and strings. It is a beautiful piece that shows that she has hope for herself to feel again (however derogatory this may be for her health and wellness). The imagery used in the song paints a wonderful picture of someone struggling emotionally against themselves and the medicine that is keeping them “balanced and on an even keel”. While “everything is perfect, nothing’s real” for them. Finally at the end of the song, she decides that she will risk it without medicine so that she can feel again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2CXMXEIPI0

But going back to the idea of the song not fitting, I agree with my friend. It is a beautiful song, yet it does seem out of place in the musical. With musical form, it is the odd ball. However, I will say that in my mind it does fit. The reason being that the song itself is a moment of clarity for Diana in the cacophony of the life that she lives in…of the musical that she resides it. It allows us a brief peek into the  calm that Diana is feeling and the fact that it doesn’t feel “normal” or real to her…it is outside the realm of reality that she has been living in…the song itself represents the drug induced stupor that Diana is in…it is calm and seemingly wonderful, but in reality, it is not what she is used to…it is not what makes her come alive. The fact that the music change is symbolic of the change that has occurred to her between this song and “My Psychopharmacologist and I”…it’s actually quite brilliant within the framework of the musical.

My other reason for the song is that I believe every musical writer writes with some idea in mind of having a stand alone song and “I Miss the Mountains” is this. If you watched it performed anywhere, you can get a feel for the song without having to have the overarch of the story. Honestly, I believe that it is good for any musical that is going to try to drum up publicity with concerts to have at least one number like that, and this one does just that. It gives enough of a hint at the story to be intriguing and has its own meaning and structural support as a solo piece.

So, yeah, I think it’s quite obvious at this point that I am enamoured with N2N…It’s a wonderful show that I would suggest everyone seeing if they get the chance. If not, I recommend getting the soundtrack and listening to it on repeat so that you can begin to fall in love with a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Winning masterpiece.

Written by uncannynerdyguy

April 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

The Power of Good Writing

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With the overflow of new creative works coming into being each day, it’s a wonder that so much of it gets acclaim for being “good” writing. In fact, most of it that is considered “good” writing is quite mediocre in comparison to some of the greats. However, that being said, there are some literary based works that have come out within the past little while that have caught my attention and intrigue me even more each day.

There are many television shows that have come out in the last several years that rely heavily upon the writing. In the midst of the Reality TV storm, shows like Heroes, Pushing Daisies (although it was canceled), Supernatural (the writing is good for what it is…a realationship between two brothers), Dexter, and many others astound me because they play with words and dialogue. Their sheer quality astounds me because up until recently the plot driven, story-based program has been crippled by the frugality and quick production time of the reality shows. I’m glad that good tv is starting to be back on the air because honestly there are few reality tv programs that I can stand.

My main example of amazing writing  is the musical Next to Normal which follows the mental breakdown of Diana, a suburban housewife, and the effects of this on her family. I will openly admit that I have become a little obsessive about the musical. For the past few weeks (ever since I saw it in New York), I have listened to at least selected songs from it…some multiple times. However, it’s because the writing and the music itself have so many layers that each time I listen I gain something more. The word choice is immaculate, and the themes, both musical and verbal, are quite awe-inspiring because they do something that a lot of writing/music nowadays doesn’t do. They make you think. They make you have to mentally interact with them to create their meaning instead of putting everything out there from the beginning. Each time I have listened to N2N, I have started to understand more of the subtext and am allowed another peek into the ethereal realm that it delves into…the unseen…Amazing writing does this…it makes us think.

Good writing whether in TV, novel, play, music, etc. should take us to places that make us think. It shouldn’t leave us feeling like we’ve reveled in the squalor (like many reality tv shows do). I hope that over the next few years we see an emergence of more clever, creative, and wonderful writing and that the crappy stuff saunters towards extinction…

Written by uncannynerdyguy

April 5, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Next to Normal: “So Anyway” My Favorite…Spoiler Alert!

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I already have several posts about Next to Normal on my blog; however, this one is about my favorite song from the show. The song “So Anyway” is just so simple but carries so much weight. Its beautiful melody with the vocals by Alice Ripley creates such an air of anxiousness, conflict, and hopefulness…She is leaving her husband to allow herself the chance to live. It’s a song of decision, and it’s evident that she doesn’t know what will become of herself…But I’ll let the song and the lyrics speak for themselves. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvL3CDC7Rr8 

“So Anyway” 

  DIANA
So anyway I’m leavingI thought you’d like to know 
You faithful come-what-may
 

But clearly I can’t stay 
We’d both go mad that way
 

So here I go 
And anyway I’m leaving
 

I guess that you can see 
I’ll try this on my own 

A life I’ve never know.I’ll face the dread alone 

But I’ll be free. 
With you always beside me 
To catch me when I fall 
I’d never get to know the feel
 

Of solid ground at all 
With you always believing 
That we can still come through
 

It makes me feel the fool 
To know that it’s not true 
What doctors call dysfunction 
We tried to call romance 
And true it’s quite a trick 
To tell the dancers from the dance 
But rather than let chance take me 
I’ll take a chance 
I’ll take a chance on leaving 
It’s that or stay and die 
I loved you once and though 
You love me still I know 
It’s time for me to fly 
I loved you once and though 
I love you still I know 
It’s time for me to go 
And so, goodbye

Written by uncannynerdyguy

March 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

Forethought in Art

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I really enjoy forethought in the construction of a musical’s score/lyrics to add tension to the overall feel of the show. Why do I even reference? It’s because recently I have fallen deeply in love with the musical Next to Normal which is a musical/story which is all about forethought. Now, I know some of you are probably saying that every composition is about thinking ahead, but this musical is just brilliant in its usage of this device.

The songs that I happen to be referencing “Better Than Before” and “Aftershocks”.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWWGrptSpvg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GnpG_bE88

The first song blends into the second seamlessly (you need to hear it without the break)…why does it do this? It’s because they’re wanting to build the ominous tone to make Gabe seem like he’s up to something. This is coming right after “Better Than Before” where the family is finally getting back to normality after Diana’s (the mom’s) stint in a mental facility…They’re trying to tell you that everything isn’t peachy. While this may seem hokey or overdone to some, I love the amount of planning that this must have taken on behalf of the composer and the lyricist. It builds complexity into the score of any show…or any musical piece because there are some classical pieces like this such as Haydn’s Symphony 94: the “Surprise” Symphony.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLjwkamp3lI

Overall, I just like good forethought on an artist’s part whether they be composer, novelist, painter, etc. It’s nice to know that they had a definite plan for themselves as they performed their artistry. Michelangelo had to have his golden vision of the Sistine Chapel in his head before the first brush stroke. If not, the place might have looked like crap…

Next to Normal

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Next to Normal is a stunning, fairly new musical on Broadway in New York City. I had the privilege recently of going to NYC and seeing it for myself. Now, I’m not one to divulge a lot about a musical just in case people reading this plan to see it. I don’t want to ruin any beautiful moment of it. However, I will say that I give it 5 stars (out of 5) because it intrigues me and because its story made me cry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPfxUGMKgLA

In the show, you are introduced to a seemingly average family. Yet, this facade is not long lived as we find out that the mother Diana (played by Alice Ripley) has a history of mental illness. The show gives insight into how families deal with psychological disease and how they cope. N2N is grounded in amazing visuals and tight harmonies with the cast of six providing all the vocals for every song that is sung from “Just Another Day” till the finale “Light”. All the actors I saw played their parts wonderfully. Alice Ripley played the part of Diana superbly, belting out the “You Don’t Know” and bringing it down for more intimate numbers like ” I Miss the Mountains”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZQM7ELKrRA

J. Robert Spencer (playing Dan, the Dad), Adam Chanler-Berat (Henry), and Louis Hobson (Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine) performed to top-notch standard. They all left me feeling connected to their characters at various times during the show. However, the two standouts of the cast I saw were Kyle Dean Massey (Gabe) and Meghann Fahy (Natalie). These two play the children of Dan and Diana. I didn’t know if I was going to like Massey because I had heard him from recordings on youtube. I didn’t know if he was going to stand up to Aaron Tveit’s original performance; however, he blew me away because I thought him to have more poise and better pitch than Tveit (in live recording’s Tveit sometimes has sketchy pitch). Massey was wonderful. Fahy, who is in fact the understudy for the part of Natalie, did a better job in my opinion than Jennifer Damiano because she was less screechy and whiny on the top notes than Damiano is. This fact speaks wonders to me because I like to have a smoother sound in the tight harmonies. Sometimes, Damiano’s voice just seems to clash with the others (although the notes are there).

If you haven’t seen Next to Normal and you live in NYC or are visiting, I would suggest going to see this gem. Staged in the Booth Theater between 45th and Broadway, it boasts amazing sets and spectacle to keep anyone on their toes. The music and story will thrill you, chill you, and leave you sobbing yet hopeful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN6KXFeMK8A&feature=fvw

My Semicharmed Musical Life

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Now, I know that some people will say that they constantly have music playing in their head and just burst out into random song all the time. However, the majority of these people are playing in the minor league compared to myself and others that surround me. Why? It’s because our lives tend to be overly musical at times (well, overly musical to normal people hence forth to be referred to as “normies”).

At any given time during the day whether wandering from my car to class, in class, at the tutoring center I work at, or at any number of businesses that are in our small town, I might burst out into song. Let me tell you it is a fun and exciting thing to do because it breaks up the monotony of my day. It helps me have a more bright and sunshiny day, and I hope that others around me feel the same way. There’s just something about it that is very freeing…if you’re free to sing in random places, to me it says that you have self-confidence and that you throughly enjoy music. Music to me is meant to be experienced in many ways. Whether it’s singing with a choir or breaking out with “The Phantom of the Opera” at Wal-Mart, it makes me happy.

Now, another thing I will say, having an “I don’t care what others think” attitude is good if you do sing in public places because sometimes the songs floating through your head that come out might be a little risqué. One day, I was walking through Wal-Mart when I burst out in the song “Sweet Transvestite” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Nothing will get you more looks than this in rural Tennessee or if you start singing Evita in a room full of Argentinians.  It can make you feel awkward, but at the same time, I just roll with it. I don’t make excuses as to why I do it. So, now, most people accept it and even joke about it.

I am a living musical….all genres come into play: country, pop, rock, musicals, r&b, etc. I am a treasure trove of random music across generational gaps and other barriers. I love my music and wish to share it with the world. If the world isn’t ready for it, they still “can’t take that away from me”. So, people you can love my nuances or just “beat it”.

Next to Normal, Addams Family, and Wicked: Oh My!

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From listening to the soundtrack and watching clips on youtube.com, I am getting excited about seeing this musical. In a few days, I will journey to New York City with other members of the college choir. This musical seems interesting because it plays with the existence of nonexistent characters. In the show, you have a woman, Diana, who is losing her mind. It seems to be an intriguing look into the aftermath of losing a child and what happens to the family surrounding that person. Diana begins to lose her grip on reality, and her family must deal with this in order to try to salvage what is left of them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYo-dflx4Gk

Addams Family the Musical also interests me because of the cast of characters. I am a fan of the Addams Family because I enjoy their type of macabre humor. The musical would probably target me quite well. It also stars Nathan Lane, Bebe Neuworth, Terrence Mann, and Carol Lee Carmello. All of them seasoned Broadway stars. This musical should be vocally good if not exciting over all. I really hope that I can find tickets to the preview….*sigh*…..

Also, I am very excited about seeing Wicked with the group. This is the one musical that I am assured to see. I am excited to see the hidden story of Oz unfold before me, Elphaba fly, and to experience the spectacle. I am a great believer that when going to New York you should at least see one show that relies heavily on spectacle because where else are you going to get the experience of the big theater.

I am throughly excited to get the opportunity to go to New York again….I hope that I am able to experience some musical goodness while I am there. I love music. I feel that it is the undercurrent of our souls. It speaks to us in ways no words can. Musicals are no exception.