NEXT TO NORMAL Blue Rep Manila (Review)

Manila’s Theater season of 2020 opens with an awesome college production of the iconic Next to Normal.

My wife was crying throughout the show as I kept my emotions to myself in solemn reflection.

I felt it was unfair for Next to Normal Blue Rep to draw us into the roller coaster of traumatic emotions within Diana and Dan’s family and left it unprocessed. There was no talkback, which could be helpful for a delicate material such as this. Best to watch it with a close friend or special someone so you can talk about it after.


First Things First

Next to Normal Blue Rep opens today March 6 until the 22nd for a 3-week run with theater veterans Cris Villonco headlining as Diana and Jef Flores as Dan in collaboration with Ateneo’s Blue Repertory team under the awesome direction of Missy Maramara.



Maybe it was Cris’s immersive performance or the Gonzaga theater’s intimate vibe or the millennial family’s portrayal of depression, bipolar disorder and our crazy life that communicated, often without words, to your unconscious, insane, bordering on suicidal thoughts.

The rawness of this college production and the sight of college kids performing for the first time in a college theater setting was surreal, and I felt honored to watch the next generation of theater superstars.

There were lots of shows that portrayed depression and mental disorder recently but nothing was as hard hitting as this Blue Rep production of Next to Normal.

Best to watch it without any expectation or reading the synopsis—just be present and immerse in the emotions as the show unfolds while holding the hand of your friend next to you.

The darkness of the material mirrorred our own lives, and we did not cry because of the characters but how the show reflected our own family’s situation specially with our teenage kids.

Is this the new normal? A submission to the thought that all of us struggle with our own craziness and imperfect relationships in this modern life amplified by social media darkness?

It’s a reminder for us to be careful with our personal relationships and be more sensitive about people who are going through their own mental challenges despite how they portray their happy moments in their social media personas.

What would it take for us to live or give a normal life to our kids? Sometimes, parents forget how modern distractions keep us from having a meaningful connection with our kids, from being present in their lives.

Cris gave an all out performance, and sometimes I wondered how she decompressed from Diana’s situation after each show. I wanted to give their family a group hug after the final curtain.

Congratulations to Ateneo’s Blue Rep production of Next to Normal, an awesome collaboration with theater veterans and college theater performers! Ang galing!

I was impressed with the performance and production despite the logistical limitations of college theater. Kudos to Jam Binay as Natalie and Tim Pavino as Gabe.

Final Thoughts

We had to walk from the theater to Katipunan just to process what we felt about the show and how it reflected on our own parenting pagkukulang and how we should be more present with our kids during this crucial moment in their lives.

Watching the dance with death up close, the traumatic portrayal and the suicidal thoughts is dangerous if left unprocessed. These are the questions and discussions often left unspoken until it’s too late.

Animo to the Next to Normal Blue Rep team for honoring our struggles with the awesome performance!


Live an Awesome Life,
Founder, Our Awesome Planet

Disclosure: We are media sponsors of #NexttoNormalBlueRep production.  I wrote this article with my biases, opinions and insights.

P.S. Don’t miss to watch this unique college theater production! Must watch for all young Filipino parents!


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