With a gripping story and a surging contemporary rock score, ProMedica Coldwater Regional Hospital, Pines Behavioral Health, and Tibbits Summer Theatre present the dramatic rock musical “Next to Normal” on the Tibbits stage for six performances, September 6-8 and 12-14, 2019.
Based on the book by Brian Yorkey, with lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Tom Kitt, “Next to Normal” won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for drama and three 2009 Tony awards, including Best Musical Score. “Next to Normal” is a very real depiction of a family in crisis trying to overcome the past. The story centers on a mother who struggles with worsening bipolar disorder and the effects that managing her illness has on her family. The musical addresses grief, depression, suicide, drug abuse, ethics in modern psychiatry, and suburban life through humor and tears.
Director Charles Burr says, “I find ‘Next to Normal’ exciting and rather daunting. It won every award possible for its writing. That makes me excited to get my hands on it and determined to get it right,” adding, “I love the music, a combo of rock and contemporary Broadway. But it is not an easy score to sing. Fortunately, we have 6 wonderful performers.”
Along with Tibbits Artistic Director Charles Burr, Matthew Everingham joins “Next to Normal” as musical director. The cast, with returning professional summer theatre company members, is comprised of Stephanie Burdick as Diana, Taylor Joseph Rivera as Gabe, Matthew C. Scott as Dan, Jennifer Barnaba as Natalie, Michael Motkowski as Henry, and Sean Noonan as Doctor Madden/Doctor Fine. The technical staff includes set design by Aaron Bell and Rachel Lucas, lighting design by Catie Blencow, costume design by Marie Green, sound design by Ken Delaney, and props by Rachel Marengere.
Burr added, “I love how the story is told, but it is told in a very non-linear, almost dream like sequence of short scenes. I think we have designed a set that will help clarify the action. It has been a long time since I have been able to work on show that is highly dramatic, but has wonderfully humorous moments…you know–just like life.”
Pines and ProMedica have teamed with Tibbits to present the show as a means of opening the dialogue on the very real issues of mental health. ProMedica is a mission-based, not-for-profit integrated healthcare organization headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. Driven by its mission to improve health and well-being, ProMedica has been nationally recognized for its advocacy programs and efforts to address social determinants of health. Pines, as the Community Mental Health Authority for Branch County, specializes in assisting those with serious mental illness such as Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Severe Anxiety and other brain conditions that impair functional abilities due to the severity of symptoms. Tibbits has been producing professional theatre for 55 years and has established its reputation for quality productions.
This collaborative activity is sponsored by ProMedica with additional support from Pines. The performance also received support from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Minigrant Program administered by the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.
“Next to Normal” will be presented September 6, 7, 12, 13, 14 at 7:30 pm and September 8 at 2 pm. The show does include mature content and some explicit language. The goal of the production is to bring attention to mental health issues, dispel stigmas, and open up dialogues through the art of live theatre. To encourage the open dialogue, each performance will include informal discussions and Talkbacks to engage audience members in the conversation with the performers and others involved. Discussions will include health care professionals available for questions, information, and assistance.
Burr says, “I know our sponsors are looking for this show to spark a discussion about mental health, a topic that even in 2019 is still a really taboo subject. The arts, and theatre in particular, have a long history of shining a light on issues and helping to get that conversation going.”
Tickets for “Next to Normal” range from $10-$27 (including fees) with student and Tibbits member pricing. Tickets are currently available online at Tibbits.org, through the Tibbits Box Office at the theatre, or by calling 517-278-6029. To add to the Tibbits experience, Tibbits Ghost Light Bar in the theatre’s elevator lobby is open before the show and at intermission. All performances are held at the beautiful historic Tibbits Opera House, 14 S. Hanchett Street, in Coldwater. For more information, call or visit Tibbits.org.