Slow Burn Theatre in West Boca tackled the rock musical Next to Normal as its season opener. And tackle it they did. It was an emotionally gripping show that will tug at your heartstrings. I can’t remember any one song that particularly stood out above the rest; instead I mostly remember the raw emotion displayed by the actors and the topics and themes the musical addresses.

The story follows a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that her illness has on her family. The themes include grief, suicide, drug abuse, and medical ethics. All very serious topics that are dealt with in a respectful way, while also leaving room for some laugh out loud moments. I won’t give away the story twists, but there is one the middle of the first act that will certainly shock the audience and the musical did not end the way I thought it would.

Sharyn Peoples plays the leading lady Diana with the perfect amount of emotion and craziness. I felt her grief, her helplessness and when she lost control. The rest of the cast was equally excellent in their roles.

Next To Normal isn’t your dance and sing-along musical. It’s a drama that happens to have a lot music in it. But it’s a show that everyone must see.

On Broadway the show has done quite well being nominated for 11 Tony Awards in 2009, winning including Best Original Score, Best Orchestration and Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. It also won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010, becoming the eighth musical in history to do so.

This will be Slow Burn’s first show in its history to be eligible for South Florida’s most prestigious theater awards – the Carbonells. And it was certainly a good show to start out with.

This weekend the show continues at West Boca High School in Boca Raton and the following weekend it travels to Aventura Arts and Culture Center in Aventura. Visit for more information. Jason Parsley