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The Spotlight: Dan Goodman in 'Next to Normal' at the Ahmanson Theatre

December 21, 2010 |  3:00 pm

I was a wild twenty-five

I loved a wife so alive

But now I believe I would settle 

for one who could drive.

-- Dan Goodman singing “Who’s Crazy?” in "Next to Normal"

Dependable husband. Ardent lover. Architect. Awkward father. Enabler. Dan Goodman is many things, but the character is the undeniable anchor of “Next to Normal,” the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical about living with mental illness, now at the Ahmanson Theatre.

Next to Normal Photo 7 As his wife, Diana (Alice Ripley), cycles through mania, depression and suicide attempts, Dan (Asa Somers) is always there to pick up the pieces. To try another doctor. To forgive her one more time. To parent their daughter alone. Is he heroic, or massively codependent?

"Dan makes you feel two things at once," says Brian Yorkey, "Normal's" book writer and lyricist. "'I want someone like that' and 'Dude, get out of this relationship!'"

“I think Diana swept Dan off his feet when they first met,” says Somers. “Her wildness was what attracted him.” While acknowledging the character’s “Zen patience,” Somers tries to play Dan as “pushed to the very edge. This family is up there without a net. I think the story never comes across as false because we can all see ourselves up there in one of those roles. The issue doesn’t have to be mental illness. It can be any struggle.”

-- Charlotte Stoudt

At the Ahmanson Theatre through Jan. 2.

Photo: (l to r) Curt Hansen, Alice Ripley and Asa Somers in "Next to Normal." Credit: Craig Schwartz.