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(Did all four male actors have to be similar-sounding tenors?On disc, it's confusing.) Like many independent films, Next to Normal is largely a downbeat character study although, unlike most independent films, it ends with a hopeful, anthemic song, "Light," which isn't necessarily justified by the conclusion of the plot, but might be needed to send the audience out with a bit of optimism.This is not the show (or the score) for people looking for something to see after Mary Poppins and Shrek (to name two musicals on Broadway at the same time).But for musical theater fans hoping for some degree of intellectual heft and emotional maturity, it's a must-see.

"To me, Next to Normal is like an independent film," writes the musical's director, Michael Greif, in his liner notes to the original Broadway cast album, and that's a good way to think about this small-scaled show (six actors, seven musicians) that began Off-Broadway and, in truth, is closer to the kind of serious work that Off-Broadway produces rather than the lighter, larger fare that tends to play on Broadway in the early 21st century, or that, by analogy, is closer to the kind of low-budget independent film that is first seen at the Sundance Film Festival than to a big-budget Hollywood movie that opens in thousands of theaters. Usually, you can still find one of those Sundance-type movies playing in one (small) theater of a multiplex on most weekends, just as you can still find one musical on Broadway that isn't aimed at children or tourists for whom English is a second language.

Unfortunately, said "demo reel" does not show a lot of versatility in acting (but plenty of close-ups and shirtless scenes as if that will make up for it).

Frankly, this is just a bunch of David Schwimmers trying to convince us they are really hot and interesting instead of boring and homely.

With provocative lyrics and an electrifying score of more than 30 original songs, Next to Normal shows how far two parents will go to keep themselves sane and their family’s world intact.01.

It seems that musical theater never gets sick of a good love song, and neither do we.

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