Fri 28 Sep 2012
What is a rock musical? or a rock opera? I confess that I never understood exactly where are the borders of the genres, actually where the classical operetta ends and the musical genre starts. Maybe when it is staged on Broadway? Now when do we add the rock adjective? (Is it an adjective?) This may be a little simpler – when electric guitars and maybe a rock band replaces the violins and the classical orchestra. Really so?
All these questions and some more may be asked around the staging of Next to Normal (Kima’at Normali) at HaBima. The text is written by Brian Yorkey, and the music by Tom Kitt, and the play enjoyed great success on Broadway a few years ago, wining Tony Awards and a Pulitzer prize for drama. The story tells of a mother in an average American family suffering of bipolar disorder, her fall into insanity, the electric shocks treatment she is going through, the effects on her and on her family, the ultimate dismembering of the family fabric and of her personality. The music composed by Kitt fits well the developing personal and family drama on the stage. Both the musical and the dramatic awards seem justified.
And yet the next question needs to be asked – is this the proper material for the national theater of Israel? Here the answer is even more complicated, as it would need a definition of what is fit for a national theater, and whether such a concept still exist in the conditions where such institutions face commercial viability criteria. I would say that shows like Next to Normal are not a guarantee for audience success, and the largest hall at HaBima was not full the night we watched the show (second day of Rosh HaShana, scheduled in conflict with the first night of the Champions League matches – I should mention).
How was the show? Not bad at all. Gathering a proper cast for a two hours of intensive acting and singing is not an easy task, and all the participants get a good grade for the combination of their dramatic and musical performances. Only one of them is a pop star (Harel Skaat) and I expected him to be good, but Ayelet Robinson was also remarkable in the lead role. Daniel Efrat’s Hebrew version of the text sounds very good in Hebrew, one would not say the play is translated. Director Hanan Schneer built a rather fluent performance, the musical score is well played by a group of musicians led by Nadav Rubinshtein, the only problem was with the sound, voices seemed strident at many moments, maybe a problem of acoustics, maybe the lack of experience of the sound engineers with the genre. Overall Next to Normal was a pleasant surprise not only as a repertoire choice item.