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Theater cast album reviews: 'Next to Normal' and more

August 16, 2009 |  1:00 pm

Shrek We cast album geeks tend to spend a fair amount of time in bad lighting conditions. We're either bathed in the glow of a computer screen as we search the Internet for news of upcoming releases, or we're awash in  fluorescent light as we skulk the aisles of what few record stores remain, seeking signs of our ever-harder-to-find must-haves.

The current search is rewarded by the release of "Next to Normal," winner of this year's Tony for best score. The story follows an otherwise typical American family down the rabbit hole of mental illness -- not an easy place to go. But composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey make the journey  fascinating. We come out on the other end having learned something about ourselves.

The album is reviewed in Sunday Arts & Books, along with the Broadway cast recordings of the movie adaptations "Shrek" and "9 to 5," the latter of which changed a bit after its tryout at the Ahmanson; the '80s hair-rock assemblage "Rock of Ages," which also started in L.A.; and revivals of the landmark musicals "West Side Story" and "Hair."

"Next to Normal" stands out for a number of reasons, not least: It's an original idea amid all of those adaptations, jukebox piece-togethers and revivals. Geeks rejoice!

-- Daryl H. Miller 


Credit: Decca Broadway

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