Next to Normal - PLOT SYNOPSIS

2009 Broadway
Next to Normal the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Act I

Diana Goodman, a suburban mother suffering from bipolar disorder, stays up late awaiting the return of her son Gabe, who has broken curfew. Also awake is Diana’s daughter Natalie, an overachieving high school student who is stressfully studying for an upcoming test. Diana encourages her daughter to take a break and rest, and soon after, Gabe returns home and Diana’s husband Dan awakes to help the family prepare for the day (“Just Another Day”). Diana prepares a meal for her family, but Dan and Natalie stop her when they realize the sandwiches she is making cover every surface of the kitchen. As Dan helps the disoriented Diana, Natalie and Gabe leave for school. Natalie releases some pent-up anger and frustration as she practices for an upcoming piano recital in the school’s music room (“Everything Else”), where she meets Henry, a fellow classmate who has been admiring Natalie from afar. Meanwhile, Diana repeatedly visits her psychiatrist’s office where she is prescribed a variety of medications, though they all prove to cause debilitating physical side effects; Dan waits through her appointments in the car while he questions his own sanity (“Who's Crazy?/ My Psychopharmacologist and I”). When Diana is given a medication which numbs and rids her of all feelings, the doctor pronounces her stable and sends her on her way.

After witnessing a romantic moment between Natalie and Henry (“Perfect For You”), Diana mourns the loss of her old life, longing for the days she lived in both pain and joy, as opposed to the numbness her new medication has caused (“I Miss the Mountains”). At Gabe’s suggestion, she flushes her medications.

Meanwhile, Dan arranges a family dinner, inviting Henry to join them (“It's Gonna Be Good”). When Diana brings to the table a cake for Gabe’s birthday, Dan gently reminds her that Gabe in fact died nearly sixteen years ago, and her visions of him throughout the show have only been hallucinations. After an upset Natalie runs to her bedroom, Dan clears off the dinner table while Diana reveals to him she has stopped her medication. As he tries to empathize with her, she becomes angry, saying he could not possibly understand the pain she is going through (“You Don't Know”). Dan begs her to let him help however he can, reminding her of his faithfulness and patience thus far, but is interrupted by a vision of Gabe, whom only Diana can see. Diana immediately clings to her son, rejecting Dan’s offer of comfort (“I Am the One”). Upstairs, Natalie vents to Henry over her mother’s attachment to the dead Gabe over her (“Superboy and the Invisible Girl”). Diana overhears their conversation and offers the only comfort she is capable of giving, telling Natalie, “I love you as much as I can.”

Diana visits a new doctor, who performs talk therapy and hypnosis on her. During their session, she sees Gabe, who asserts his dominance over her and the control he has in her life. Diana reveals intimate details about the effects of her illness, saying that she was unable to hold Natalie in the hospital when she was born. Meanwhile, Natalie botches an important piano recital upon discovering her parents are not in the audience (“Make Up Your Mind/ Catch Me I’m Falling”). Diana’s doctor encourages her to go home, spend time with Natalie, and clean out a box of Gabe’s old things in an attempt to let him go. Diana agrees but is confronted with a hallucination of Gabe while sorting through a box in their basement (“I Dreamed a Dance”). Gabe convinces her to commit suicide, saying it is the only way they can be together (“There's a World”). Diana is hospitalized after her suicide attempt fails, and Dan is told by Dr. Madden that electro-conclusive therapy is one of the only options they have left. Dan returns home to clean up the scene of his wife’s attempt at suicide, narrowly avoiding a breakdown of his own as he reminisces about the years spent with Diana (“I've Been”). Natalie finds him and is angry to discover that he has agreed to the doctor’s recommendation of shock therapy. Upon returning to the hospital, he finds that Diana has become aggressive with the staff for wanting her to sign the confirmation papers, likening the idea of shock therapy to its depiction in the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (“Didn't I See This Movie?”). However, after clearing the room of doctors, he manages to convince her of the necessity of this treatment, saying it is the only way they can get back to normal (“A Light in the Dark”). Reluctantly, Diana agrees and signs the papers, embracing Dan as the first act comes to a close.

Act II

Diana receives a series of ECT treatments over two weeks. Meanwhile, Natalie experiments with drugs and frequently goes clubbing, being rescued most nights by Henry, who sees her home safely. On one occasion, she seems to share a hallucination with her mother (“Wish I Were Here”). Upon Diana’s return home from the hospital, it is revealed that she has lost her memories of the last nineteen years due to the shock therapy - including the memory of her deceased son (“Song of Forgetting“). Henry, who has been finding Natalie passed out at clubs and driving her home, asks Natalie to the upcoming school dance, an invitation which she immediately declines (“Hey #1”). Meanwhile, Dan questions Dr. Madden over Diana’s memory loss, learning it is a relatively common side effect of ECT (“Seconds and Years”). Because Gabe’s death was the start of a lifetime of depression, Dan hesitates to remind her of it. At home, he and Natalie help Diana sort through a box of pictures and memories of her old life, leaving out any mention of Gabe’s existence (“Better Than Before”). However, Diana is briefly confronted afterward by Gabe, who hints that she has forgotten a vital part of her life (“Aftershocks”). Meanwhile, Henry once again invites Natalie to the dance, but is turned down again (“Hey #2").

Diana visits Dr. Madden, who accidentally reveals the existence of her son, unaware that Dan has not yet done so (“You Don't Know (reprise)”). After learning this, Diana returns home and searches through Gabe’s old belongings, finding the music box that helped him sleep as an infant. When Dan finds her revisiting the night their son died, he reluctantly reminds her that their son had died of an illness all of the doctors missed (“How Could I Ever Forget?”). Diana confusedly admits she recalls hallucinating Gabe as a teenager, and Dan frantically says they will get her to the doctor and do more ECT (“It’s Gonna Be Good (reprise)”), which leads to a heated argument between the two that Natalie witnesses the peak of. After Natalie runs upstairs to her bedroom, where Henry is waiting to talk with her, Diana questions Dan as to why he stays, despite all of the things she puts him through and all the pain they have experienced together. He reminds her of their wedding vows and promises to see their relationship through, no matter much she pushes him away. Upstairs, Henry makes a similar pledge to Natalie (“Why Stay?/A Promise”). However, Diana once again sees Gabe and is immediately entranced by him, drawn away from Dan (“I'm Alive”).

Though Dan begs her to stay, Diana leaves and visits Dr. Madden, frustrated that years of treatment haven’t seemed to improve her condition and wonders if her grief over losing her son should truly be medicated (“The Break”). Dr. Madden pleads with her to stay with him, recommending more shock treatment and other medications, but she leaves the appointment (“Make Up Your Mind/Catch Me I’m Falling (reprise)”). Upon returning outside, she connects with Natalie for the first time, noting the similarities between the two of them and truly making an effort to connect with her for possibly the first time. They embrace and agree that somehow they will get by, and Diana drives Natalie to the dance to meet Henry (“Maybe”). At the dance, Natalie voices her concerns to Henry that she will someday end up with the same issues as her mother, though Henry promises to stand by her no matter what, and the two kiss (“Hey #3/ Perfect For You (reprise)”).

Diana returns home and tells Dan she is leaving him, saying that though she still loves him, they both must finally come to terms with their grief on their own (“So Anyway”). Devastated, Dan looks back on his years of faithfulness to her and sees Gabe for the first time. (“I Am the One (reprise)”). The two share an embrace, and Dan says his name for the first time in the course of the show. Gabe disappears, and Natalie returns home to find that her mother is gone. She continues her relationship with Henry, and Diana has moved in with her parents temporarily, still depressed but more hopeful than she’s ever been. Dan visits Dr. Madden, who gives him the name of another psychiatrist he can talk to. Gabe is seen by the audience one final time, this time relaying a message of hope as opposed to the threatening, ominous persona he has taken most of the show, and the family adjusts to their new way of life (“Light”).

Other Songs: Next to Normal the Musical Lyrics
Next to Normal Synopsis Plot

Next to Normal the Musical Lyrics

Just Another Day
Everything Else
Who's Crazy/My Psychopharmacologist and I
Perfect for You
I Miss the Mountains
It's Gonna Be Good
He's Not Here
You Don't Know
I Am the One
Superboy and the Invisible Girl
I'm Alive
Catch Me I'm Falling
I Dreamed a Dance
There's a World
I've Been
Didn't I See This Movie?
A Light in the Dark
Wish I Were Here
Song of Forgetting
Hey №1
Seconds and Years
Better Than Before
Hey № 2
You Don't Know (Reprise)
How Could I Ever Forget?
It's Gonna Be Good (Reprise)
Why Stay?
I'm Alive (Reprise)
The Break
Catch Me I'm Falling (Reprise)
Maybe (Next to Normal)
Hey № 3 / Perfect for You (Reprise)
So Anyway
I Am The One (Reprise)