'Next to Normal' hits Waller Hall mainstage
Published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 26, 2012 09:07
A suffering mother. Loss. Drug abuse. Psychiatry. A good start for an award-winning rock opera.
This weekend, the Keystone Repertory Theater will present “Next to Normal,” bringing the Broadway favorite to the Waller Hall mainstage.
“It was a big hit when it came out in 2009 and pretty much swept the whole Broadway community,” said director Nick Hrutkay (theater graduate, 2011). “We saw it on Broadway and just completely fell in love with it.”
Written by Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey, the musical brought in three Tony awards in 2009 and the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama.
“Next to Normal” is “is a heart-swelling and searingly painful dissection of a mother’s mental illness and her suburban family's struggle to keep their world intact” and features more than 30 original songs.
As with all productions, “Next to Normal” proved to be a challenge to its cast and crew. Hrutkay described the difficulties of portraying middle-aged parents with actors who are still in college.
“It’s the challenge of playing the older roles and directing the older roles,” he said, “because we’ve never experienced that yet for ourselves.”
Lisa Valasco (junior, theater major), who plays Natalie, said the hardest part has been trying not to lose her voice. The cast rehearses daily, which means rehearsing all 30-plus tunes daily as well.
Hrutkay explained that prep work for this show was particularly extensive.
“There’s so much to research,” he said. “You have all the psychology behind the characters, you have the medicine behind the characters and understanding all the different aspects of that type of science has been the most challenging part.”
Despite daily challenges, Hrutkay has confidence in his cast and crew.
“I said last night if I could get this entire group of people again to work on another show that would be fantastic,” he said. “Things have gone very smoothly.”
Ultimately, they all hope the audience will connect with the show in some way.
“I think it’s you never know what to expect because each show’s different and the audience reaction’s so different,” Hrutkay said. “I’ve really pushed it to be different than the original production and give a fresh take and leave our print on it as opposed to trying to replicate what somebody else already created.
“I think it’s up to the audience member if they choose to follow [the mother’s] story, the father’s story or the son’s story and how they personally connect with it. I’m very interested to see people take that away from it and see who they connect with.”
“I hope they understand the concept,” said Adam Fladd (junior, vocal performance major), who plays Gabe. “It’s a big, deep complex plotline, but that they understand the message at the end of the show.”
In the end, Hrutkay revealed that the show is summed up in the words of final Broadway cast member Meghann Fahy, “It’s taught me that things aren’t fine, but that’s okay. You do deal with it, and life continues.”
“Next to Normal” is playing on the Waller Hall mainstage at 8:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. The show deals with adult issues and features adult language and situations. Tickets can be purchased at the HUB box office or at the door 45 minutes prior to the performance. Ticket prices are $14 regular admission or $10 with an I-Card.