Tag Archives: Jack Wolfe



Wyndham’s Theatre

NEXT TO NORMAL at Wyndham’s Theatre


“as close to extraordinary as is physically possible”

Many years ago, as a young father, I often interrupted my children’s playtime by asking what they were doing. They never thought it an intrusion – always happy to answer. One particular day, in response to the question my daughter responded with “I’m trying to be normal”. Five minutes later she had completely forgotten the conversation (possibly the ice cream van, or the urgent matter of shouting at her little brother took precedence), but it lingered with me for some time. I think I had answered in my usual flippant way with something like “join the club” or “aren’t we all?”. I never thought of bursting into song. Decades later the perfect answer is delivered to me from the West End stage.

“I don’t need a life that’s normal
That’s way too far away
But something next to normal
Would be okay
Yes, something next to normal
That’s the thing I’d like to try
Close enough to normal to get by”

When Eleanor Worthington-Cox delivers the lines towards the end of the second act in Tom Kitt’s (Music) and Brian Yorkey’s (book and lyrics) astonishing musical, there’s not a dry eye in the house, yet there’s also a collective feeling of elation that ripples through the auditorium. “Next to Normal” obviously addresses the subject of mental health but it never feels that way. The message (if there is one) or the answer (there isn’t one) runs subliminally beneath a musical that soars to the heights.

Worthington-Cox is Natalie, the daughter to Diana (Caissie Levy) who grapples with her bipolar disorder. In principle it is Diana’s story. A heart-wrenching one. In reality it is everyone’s story. Levy is simply stunning in the lead role, capturing with undiluted precision and sympathy all the highs and lows of her roller-coaster condition, guiding us through the funny moments to the achingly sad and tragic. Levy is surrounded by five other lead players, for this is an ensemble piece. Husband Dan (the magnificent Jamie Parker) battles to understand, often picking up the pieces and trying to get through another day. Initially it all seems normal. The angst-ridden daughter and the waif-like son, Gabe (Jack Wolfe), getting ready for school. But how quickly it all unravels – until the bombshell arrives quite early on. It won’t be long before the whole capital knows the twist, but until then I’m keeping mum.

The medical profession is not so much made fun of, but scrutinised with comic genius by the writers. Trevor Dion Nicholas plays two different doctors – the aptly named Dr. Madden and Dr. Fine – lightening the mood with darkness each time he arrives on stage, littering the space with pill boxes, black humour, dubious cures or just the aura of a Rock God. Another subplot is supplied by the blossoming relationship between Natalie and school chum Henry (Jack Ofrecio) which mirrors the elder couple’s in a frighteningly authentic, cyclical way. Jack Wolfe, of course, is sublimely shadowy as Gabe. Whilst his character is fighting to be seen and not forgotten, there is no denying that the beauty of his voice can be heard near and far and the tones will be remembered for a long time.

The musical will linger in the memory for even longer. The score is magical. One moment light and catchy, another aching and haunting. The manic ‘It’s Gonna be Good’ sits comfortably alongside Levy’s aching rendition of the soaring ‘I Miss the Mountains’. Vulnerability and despair, heartache and longing, love and guilt have all never been served better in song. Interspersed between the numbers are some brilliantly succinct one-liners that sum up decades of medical hypothesis. The fact that they are dressed in cloaks of humour add poignancy to the already impassioned performances. ‘Most people who think they are happy haven’t thought about it enough’

Nobody has to think hard at all to realise that “Next to Normal” is as close to extraordinary as is physically possible. ‘There will be light’, we are told in the uplifting closing number. But it is far from a cloying sentiment, as a tangible question mark still hangs in the air. And for the moment, the light is refracted through tears – of sadness and of joy. Heart-breaking, heart-warming and life-affirming, this musical is more than a must see.

NEXT TO NORMAL at Wyndham’s Theatre

Reviewed on 26th June 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Marc Brenner



Previously reviewed at this venue:

KING LEAR | ★★★★ | October 2023
OKLAHOMA! | ★★★★ | February 2023
LIFE OF PI | ★★★★★ | November 2021



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Braille Legacy – Casting

Final casting is today announced for the world première of a major new musical, “The Braille Legacy”, the thrilling, true, inspirational and epic story of Louis Braille, a young blind boy who wanted the same chance in life as those who see and ended up improving the lives of millions of blind people around the world.

It is being directed by acclaimed director Thom Southerland (”Ragtime”, “Titanic”, “Grey Gardens”, “Death Takes A Holiday”) and will première at Charing Cross Theatre (Artistic Director Thom Southerland, Managing Director Steven M. Levy) from Monday 10 April to Saturday 24 June.

Joining previously announced Olivier Award nominated Jérôme Pradon (West End credits include the UK premiere of the musical “Women On The Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”, Guillaume in “Martin Guerre”, Chris in “Miss Saigon”, Javert in “Les Miserables”, and Judas in the Emmy-winning video of “Jesus Christ Superstar”) are:

Jason Broderick (“Godspell” UK tour, “Anna Nicole – The Opera” Royal Opera House); Tate-Eliot Drew (“My Lands Shore” Ye Olde Rose N Crown Theatre); Will Haswell (“Jersey Boys” West End, Pinocchio in ‘Shrek the Musical” UK tour); Lottie Henshall (“Doctors” BBC1); Sarah-Marie Maxwell (“She Loves Me” Menier Chocolate Factory, “Top Hat” UK tour); Matthew McDonald (“Death Takes a Holiday” Charing Cross Theatre, “Allegro” Southwark Playhouse); Kate Milner-Evans (“Showboat” West End, Carlotta in “The Phantom of the Opera”); Janet Mooney (West End includes “Les Miserables” and “Love Never Dies”); Ceili O’Connor (“Grand Hotel” Southwark Playhouse, “Evita” UK tour); Michael Remick (West End includes “Dirty Dancing” and “The Sound of Music”); Ashley Stillburn (Corrado in “Death Takes A Holiday” Charing Cross Theatre, “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Les Miserables” West End); Jack Wolfe (is making his professional stage debut as Louis Braille); and a child cast featuring Guillermo Bedward, Thomas Brown, Tallulah Byrne, Beau Cripps, Ilan Galkoff, Honey Harrison-Maw, Eliz Hassan, Megan Haynes, Zachary Loonie, Mimi Slinger, Ophir Fifi Tal, William Thompson.

“The Braille Legacy” is the story of a revolution and an heroic fight for independence, with the themes of difference, freedom, hope and love and the triumph of human values over adversity.

In Paris in the 19th century, blind people were victims of profound discrimination. Louis Braille, a bright young mind with a mad dream, arrives at the Royal Institute of Blind Youth, searching for the same chance as everyone else: to be free and independent. But he soon discovers that people and things aren’t always what they first seem. By sheer determination and courage he stumbles upon something revolutionary: a simple idea, a genius invention, a legacy. Two hundred years ago, Louis Braille changed the world by inventing the tactile system of communication, the Braille alphabet, liberating the “People of the Night” and introducing literacy, knowledge and culture to a people who were otherwise trapped. It was their journey into the light.

“The Braille Legacy” has an original French Book and Lyrics by Sébastien Lancrenon, Music by Jean-Baptiste Saudray, with an English translation by Ranjit Bolt. Music Supervision and Orchestrations are by Simon Lee.
The full creative team is: Director: Thom Southerland, Music Supervision and Orchestrations: Simon Lee, Musical Director Toby Higgins, Choreographer Lee Proud, Set Designer: Tim Shortall, Lighting Designer Tim Lutkin, Costume Designer: Jonathan Lipman, Sound Designer: Andrew Johnson, Casting: Stephen Crockett at Grindrod Casting, Children’s Casting: Jo Hawes, Music Preparation: Simone Manfredini, Associate Director Rupert Hands.

The Braille Legacy Ltd by arrangement with
Colbert Entertainment Ltd present

The Braille Legacy

Monday 10 April to Saturday 24 June


Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Matinees Wednesday at 2.30pm
and Saturday at 3.00pm

Audio-Described Performances:
Saturday 27 May at 3.00pm
Monday 29 May at 7.30pm


Ticket prices:
Stalls £32.50
Balcony £22.50
Slips £17.50
Premium seats £39.50

Premium seats are best stalls locations,
and include a programme and a glass of
sparkling wine


The Arches
Villiers Street
London WC2N 6NL

08444 930650