Becoming Norman

Condensing one's life story into a palatable 90-minute one-act production deserves a modicum of credit right off the bat. Being able to bare one's soul and detail a 45-year-long struggle to exorcise personal demons while avoiding the pitfalls of becoming hopelessly maudlin is a pleasant surprise. Author-composer-performer Norman P. Dixon, this piece's protagonist, takes his audience on an endearing trip, one that may have brought him full circle yet seems to be merely the stepping-off point to even greater things in his future.

One of four children born into a loving Mormon home in Orem, Utah, Dixon started his journey to self-awareness at an early age. Discovering an affinity for dresses, dolls, and the like, he knew he was different from his childhood playmates—a difference he instinctively realized must be suppressed. Supplemented by a series of touching, original musical compositions with telling titles such as "What If…" and "Time," Dixon traverses the years, accompanied by music director Steven Applegate. Sexual development, personal interactions, self-sabotage, and ultimately the comprehension of who Dixon is and what he must do—it's all there. Yes, he had to turn his back on the Latter Day Saints church, but his close familial ties remain intact, as does an inner spirituality that is clearly present in Dixon's boyish charm. Under the expert direction of Debra De Liso, Dixon refreshingly never once plays the blame card. His experiences, good and bad, are viewed as necessary cobblestones in the road that has led him to where he finds himself today: in a committed relationship with a partner whose support and love are evident.

Set designer Lacey Anzelc's upstage wall of open doorways is festooned with a collage of photos, posters, oversized musical score pages, and more, each serving as visual support for Dixon's varied tales. Lighting designer Coby Chasman-Beck demonstrates an innate skill by softly illuminating the various playing spaces of this venue's small stage.

Dixon's last two numbers, "The World Within" and the titular "Becoming Norman," give one hope not only for this individual's continued success but that all of us may have the opportunity to reach our full potential.

Presented by C. Raul Espinoza, It's in the Cards. and the NoHo Arts Center Ensemble at the NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood. Aug. 7–Sept. 12. Fri.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m. (800) 595-4849.