11th Grade, Hunter College High School
Okay, so you’ve had a long day and you have too much homework. Or maybe you’re sick and tired of having nightmares about college applications. Or perhaps you’re just looking for something to do…
If this even vaguely describes you, then 4Play, performed by The Flying Karamazov Brothers, is just what the doctor ordered. It’s got everything needed to cheer you up and distract you from your troubles.
The show centers on juggling, but not the boring meh-he’s-a-street-performer-of-reasonable-skill type juggling. Rather, it’s juggling that’ll have you sitting on the edge of your seat, fearing for the lives of the Brothers as they perform difficult routines — including juggling with their eyes closed.
Maybe you’re not a juggling fan and you’re contemplating putting down this article. Please don’t! Amidst their juggling extravaganzas, the Brothers work in funny skits and jokes. Furthermore, hecklers are welcome to scream out their remarks.
If there happens to be some free time on your schedule, don’t dally and procrastinate. Instead, let more qualified professionals do it for you, in a doubtlessly more entertaining way.
TICKETS: $20 • Minetta Lane, 18 Minetta Lane, www.4playtheshow.com
9th Grade, School of the Future
Next to Normal is a fascinating story about Diana, an erratic bipolar suburban mom, who tries to hold the threads of her family together.
Diana has been depressed for years. Her psychiatrist prescribes medication and finally resorts to horrific treatment to help Diana overcome her condition. Diana fails to improve and the family plunges into chaotic mayhem.
Meanwhile, Diana’s daughter, Natalie, feels ignored—she focuses on schoolwork and an upcoming piano recital instead of dealing with what is going on in her family. Dan, Natalie’s father, tries to help Diana get better and attempts to return the family to how it used to be.
From the outside, this family seems perfect, but when you get a glimpse inside, it is far from normal. The dramatic rock music accompanies the powerful voices of the performers. All of the actors are convincing in portraying their characters.
I highly recommend Next to Normal to teenagers. Although the content is serious, the performance is upbeat and thought-provoking.
Music by Tom Kitt, book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey.
TICKETS: $25 lottery rush • Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St. www.nexttonormal.com
By Sabrina Khan
*Warning – this article contains spoilers about the play*
Next to Normal is a rock musical about a psychologically ill mother and the conflicts she faces as she and her family cope with her problems. The musical bursts with powerful language portraying the gravity of grief, frustration, depression, and love this family feels and shares.
Next to Normal was originally called Feeling Electric when it was conceived as a 10-minute sketch in 2002. The story then revolved around suburban mother Diana Goodman receiving electroshock therapy as her husband Dan and daughter Natalie react to it and its effects on her. This draft focused heavily on a criticism of the medical practice, instead of the family’s pain.
It transformed into that much later with several changes through readings at different stages of its journey. And in 2008, Next to Normal was produced off Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre for the first time under its current name.
Throughout the show, Diana undergoes many different treatments because psychological disorders often cannot be classified as single illnesses with simple labels. Each person experiences their conditions differently and is treated on a custom basis, often mixing drugs and therapy. On a particular tragic occasion, Diana has a serious breakdown and her doctor recommends electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
ECT is the standard course of treatment for drug-resistant patients who are imminently suicidal. One side effect of ECT is memory loss, which is a major point of contention in the story. Diana decides to go through with it, and though she seems to improve, she also suffers considerable amnesia. The treatment ends up solving little, and the show portrays only shows the downsides of the practice.
Next to Normal so attempts to have a musical conversation about psychological disorders and the means to alleviate them through the breakdown of this family. It’s worth gaining a fair knowledge about the issues it discusses before going in blind to this heartbreaking production.
11th Grade, Bronx High School of Science
Tigers Be Still is a down-to-earth, wonderfully crafted play that follows the Wickman women and how they “get out of bed.”
Sherri Wickman is a recent graduate of art therapy and newly employed art teacher. Besides her job, Sherri cares for her bedridden mother and perpetually intoxicated sister, Grace, who has just broken off an engagement with her less-than-faithful fiance. Sherri also provides art therapy for the principal’s son, Zack. Throughout the play, the fear of a recently escaped tiger plagues the characters, sparking a range of emotions.
The dialogue in Tigers Be Still flows well, allowing the audience to become absorbed in the natural banter between the characters. When Zack, facing the audience, asks the middle school students if they would prefer a trip to the playground rather than building popsicle stick basketball hoops, it is hard not to raise your hand.
The tiger, a symbol of the looming danger outside everyone’s comfort zone, is something every character must overcome. Slowly but surely, everyone comes to realize that they can teach their own personal tigers to “be still”.
I strongly recommend Tigers Be Still to teenagers — we’ve all had those days when we don’t want to get out of bed. Although it is in a small theatre, Tigers Be Still exceeds the confines of its small space.
Written by Kim Rosenstock.
TICKETS: thru 11/28 • $20 tickets • Roundabout Underground, 111 W. 46th St. www.roundaboutunderground.com
In The Heights is an extraordinary musical that tells the tale of Usnavi and his community in Washington Heights, the primarily Hispanic neighborhood located at the top of Manhattan. As a person who was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, this is the closest connection I have ever felt to a play.
Usnavi is a twenty-year-old orphan who runs the corner bodega. He takes care of Abuela Claudia, the woman who “practically raised him” and his younger cousin Sonny, while also dealing with his feelings for Vanessa, a friend who works down the street. Usnavi’s neighbor, Nina, returns from Stanford for the summer and struggles to tell her parents that she lost her scholarship. She becomes involved with her father’s employee, Benny. There is a scene in which Nina teaches Benny some Spanish. This is a common thing for Latinos — to want to share our language with our friends.
A highlight of the show is Jordin Sparks (from American Idol!) as Nina, along with the music and choreography, which are completely astonishing — mixing up salsa, meringue, and even rap. The set, with the view of the George Washington Bridge behind the picture-perfect bodega, looks completely authentic.
In The Heights is the story of people dealing with decisions, struggles and relationships— everyone will be able to relate to it.
Music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, book by Quiara Alegría Hudes.
TICKETS: $26.50 lottery rush • Richard Rogers Theatre, 226 W. 46th St. www.intheheightsthemusical.com
There’s a new face “in the heights” and her name is Jordin Sparks. The American Idol winner and pop sensation is now playing Nina in In the Heights on Broadway. Jordin made her theatrical debut on August 19th and will continue until November 14th.
There has always been a tendency for movie stars and singers to try their hand at theatre. Some have been successful and others have been...less so. In fact, just before Jordin came on the scene, High School Musical star Corbin Bleu had a run as Usnavi. Corbin was a hit and his run was extended for three months.
Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda started writing In the Heights during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University. Four years later, it became the first original musical on Broadway about the Dominican community in Washington Heights. It went on to win four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, in 2008.
Jordin and Corbin bring new young faces to the theatre - and isn’t that just what theatre needs?