Next to Normal The regional premiere of the rock musical Next to Normal has opened at Stages Repertory Theatre, giving us a vehicle of pure entertainment that will break your heart as well. Diana is wed to Dan, and they live with their daughter, 16-year-old Natalie. Diana is bipolar, and the disease is progressing. Happy McPartlin plays Diana, and she is understated, endearing and powerful as she grapples with unmapped territory in her mind. Brad Goertz captures her endlessly patient husband Dan with humor, charm and heart. The brilliant director Melissa Rain Anderson and Stages have created a kaleidoscope of a set that works wonderfully. The pace is comedy, but soon the gravity of Diana's condition takes center stage. Natalie is played by Rebekah Stevens, who's required to portray primarily petulance and rebellion. Tyler Berry Lewis plays her brother Gabe, required to be sullen and vaguely menacing, and nailing that. The day is saved by young Henry, steadfastly in love with Natalie, and Mark Ivy brings an attractive sweetness to the role. Kregg Alan Dailey plays two doctors, and his tall authority serves the roles well. The music by Tom Kitt is virtually continuous, with standouts: "I'm Perfect for You," "I Am the One," "Make Up Your Mind" and "Why Stay? A Promise!" Lyricist Brian Yorkey had created a perfect combination — achingly deep involvement with ironic distance — that serves the work admirably, making it vibrate with the pulse of life, poignant and heartbreaking, and likely to be etched in the memory of viewers. Brilliant direction, a galloping pace and powerful acting make an award-winning musical thoroughly enjoyable and deeply moving, in a triumphant production not to be missed. Through June 24. 3201 Allen Pkwy., 713-527-0123. — JJT

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